Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make this Statement in celebration of the Pink October Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Breast cancer originates in the cells of the breast, and when these cells behave or grow abnormally, they can develop into cancerous tumours.
The main cause individuals develop breast cancer is because their breast cells are exposed to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Hormones, especially estrogen, are linked with breast cancer and encourage the growth of some breast cancers. A common misconception is the belief that breast cancer cannot occur in men.
The incidence of male breast cancer is less common, but by virtue of the fact that men also have breast tissue, the condition does exist and must not be ignored.
Africans, according to some studies, develop the cancer some 10 years to 15 years before Caucasian women, putting us at higher risk and therefore, in need of faster intervention.
Breast cancer is increasingly becoming a medical condition of major concern. In Ghana, breast cancer prevalence seems to be increasing from 12.8 per cent in 1996 to15.4 per cent in 2007 -- per records at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that in 2012, there were 2,000 reported cases in Ghana. A staggering 50 per cent or 1,000 of those cases succumbed to the disease.
Mr Speaker, over 70 per cent of all cases reported in the country are in the advanced stages, and this may be due to the lack of awareness on the issue; cost; lack of access to routine screening mammography; social stigma and or the
preference of traditional healers over doctors. The situation of late detection often results in death due to the fact that symptoms are often ignored or unknown by individuals until the disease has fully metastasized (spread).
The number of diagnosed cases increases annually, and there is an urgent need to focus attention on awareness, education and most importantly, routine screening, preferably mammography in order to drive early detection, treatment and ultimately, reducing the prevalence and mortality rates in our society.
We should not sit by and allow breast cancer to continue tearing into us. Breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence, and our handicap in Ghana is early detection.
The First Lady of the Republic, who recently launched the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign at the Karle-Bu Teaching Hospital, stated
“if we are to make a headway in improving the sad outcomes of Ghanaians with breast cancer, we cannot ignore the twin pillars of options, which are early detection and effective treatment”.
There are other known risk factors that increase the likelihood of women developing the disease.
Age: Research shows that chances of developing the disease increases with age. The average age of women with the disease ranges between 50-69 with a lesser incidence in younger women.
Family History: Women with close family relatives who have previously suffered the disease stand greater risk of developing the disease.
Reproductive factors: A later age at first pregnancy, inability to conceive, early onset of menses, later age of menopause
amongst others, can make one more susceptible to the disease.
A number of lifestyle-related habits may limit, control and possibly, prevent the development of the disease. These include reduction or limit of alcohol, avoidance of smoking, controlling one's weight, being physically active, breast feeding, avoiding exposure to radiation and pollution, to name a few.
Misinformation or general lack of education and inadequate testing facilities, in my opinion are the biggest challenge barring access to appropriate and timely medical care. Many women who develop the disease are recipients of inaccurate information, leading them to invest in methods that exacerbate the development of the disease.
It is therefore important to commend organizations and individuals who invest their time and resources into educating the general public on the disease, how to self-screen, screen people for free, et cetera , all in the bid to halt the advancement of breast cancer.
This year, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital has spearheaded a campaign that is targeted at helping people detect the presence of the disease at an early stage to assist in effective treatment. It is a commendable initiative as voluntary breast screening can help one detect the earliest stage of breast cancer where there is the absence of lumps and just calcium flecks that can be seen through a mammogram.
Other partner health institutions include, the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, 37 Military Hospital, Accra Regional Hospital, Nyaho Medical Centre, Ho Regional Hospital, Trust Hospital, Well Woman Clinic.