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A Champion Combats Breast Cancer in Africa

February 1, 2013 by Suraj Patel

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when we celebrate and honor the brave women and their loved ones throughout the world  who battle breast cancer.  Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women around the world, with approximately 1.4 million women being diagnosed and over 450,000 dying from the disease each year.  The sad and unfortunate fact is that more than half of these deaths occur in low or middle income countries – countries like Ghana – where breast cancer generally occurs at a younger age, where cancer awareness is generally very low, and where access to health care is poor. 

Fortunately, in some of these countries, leaders have emerged to give hope and care to these women; champions who do not believe that where you live should determine whether you live.  We recently had a chance to speak with one of these champions, Dr. Beatrice Wiafe Addai, a leading breast surgeon in West Africa and CEO of Peace and Love Hospitals, about the importance of improving breast cancer awareness. Dr. Wiafe Addai has taken an aggressive grassroots approach, engaging women of all ages, to increase awareness and demystify breast cancer in Ghana.  At meetings in community centers and churches, and in interviews with local media outlets, she explains the importance of early detection and the consequences of delaying treatment. Her organization works with schools to inform girls about breast cancer, targeting a demographic that not only improves awareness in the younger generation, but also helps spread knowledge as girls talk to family and friends. Promoting breast cancer awareness and early screening is critically important, especially in low-income countries where cases are on the rise and access to quality care remains limited.  Low levels of awareness contribute to the fact that approximately 70% of cancer patients in developing countries are diagnosed at very late stages, when treatment options are far less effective. Culturally sensitive health education programs advocating for early screening, like those led by Dr. Wiafe Addai, are helping to change this trend by getting women diagnosed at early cancer stages. The Bush Institute is committed to saving lives of women around the world by spotlighting health issues like breast cancer and spearheading global initiatives. Recognizing the magnitude of these issues, the Institute has worked with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, National Breast Cancer Foundation, and others to establish and support the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative. In addition to reducing deaths from cervical cancer and creating innovative models for women’s cancer control, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon aims to raise awareness of breast and cervical cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment and reduce stigma so women can demand services in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Find out more about breast cancer and contribute to the Bush Institute global health efforts.

This post was written by Suraj Patel, Assistant Researcher in Global Health, at the George W. Bush Institute.

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