Experts call for early breast cancer screening

Breast cancer prevalence can only be checked if people turned up for early screening, experts have warned. The observation was made by health officials while briefing journalists on the breast cancer awareness month (October).
A march against breast cancer in Kigali last year. (File)
A march against breast cancer in Kigali last year. (File)

Breast cancer prevalence can only be checked if people turned up for early screening, experts have warned.

The observation was made by health officials while briefing journalists on the breast cancer awareness month (October).

“Early detection of the disease increases chances of finding a cure,” said Dr Mark Herant, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

Latest statistics from Butaro cancer centre show that breast cancer accounts for 40.3 per cent of all the cancers diagnosed.

Dr Faustine Ntirenganya, an oncologist with the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), said one out of every 10 women, and one out of every 100 men, stand the risk of contracting breast cancer.

He adds that 57 per cent of breast cancer victims show up for screening when the ailment is in the 3rd stage (second last stage), reducing chances of survival.

Currently, only four hospitals in the country offer cancer care, and there are only three oncologists countrywide.

Some advanced treatments like radiotherapy cannot be accessed locally, with only chemotherapy available.

Immaculate Habiyambere, a member of concur breast cancer association, an umbrella group that brings together breast cancer patients and survivors, said out of 105 members, 17 had succumbed to the disease in the last two years.

“Breast cancer treatment is expensive, it can never go below $30, 000 (Rwf20 million),” she said.

Palliative care

Palliative care is medical care given to patients with terminal illness, with intention to relieve pain, symptoms and stress.

Diane Mukasahaha, the national coordinator of palliative care, emphasised the need to improve the quality of service offered to cancer patients.

“Even when cancer is detected very late, and there is no cure, there are treatments that do not only help improve the quality of life, but also prolong it,” she said.

WHO Statistics

Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that 6.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2008 and 2013, worldwide.

Breast cancer is the commonest cause of cancer deaths among women, having killed 522,000 in 2012 alone. It is also the leading cause of cancer deaths in developing countries.

ADVERTISEMENT