On Saturday, the fourth edition of an awareness walk against breast cancer will be held as part of continued efforts against the disease.
The walk, dubbed “Ulinzi Walk”, is organised by the Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa Inc (BCIEA).
Rwanda has made progress in addressing the burden of breast cancer and other cancerous diseases in general but much more remains to be done.
At Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence in Burera District, breast cancer remains the most diagnosed cancer among women.
According to an overview of cancer programmes in Rwanda by Dr Francois Uwinkindi, the director of Cancer Unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, in 2014 there were 5,806 total cancer cases registered – 2,586 (44.5%) were men, while 3,220 (55.5%) were women.
Phillipa Kibugu, the founder and director of BCIEA, said, in Rwanda, there is still a challenge of lack of awareness and knowledge about breast cancer and other cancers among the general public.
Kibugu also said that inadequate infrastructure for cancer prevention, control, diagnosis, care and treatment and limited human resource for cancer related services are all still areas of concern.
She cited another major challenge as lack of reliable cancer information system such as cancer registry instead of using hospital based data and estimates from Globocan.
BCIEA is intensifying its campaign by implementing an innovative approach to awareness, Kibugu said.
The organisation trains women from a village, a survivor or volunteer and equips them with a smartphone loaded with a BCIEA breast health app, a guide in Kinyarwanda and then deploys them to their villages to go and sensitise their own people about the disease.
“We currently have 19 trained village ambassadors which translates into 19 Smart Villages,” she said.
These ‘ambassadors’ use community platforms, such as Umuganda and Akagoroba k’ababyeyi, to teach and create awareness about breast and other cancers.
This year, there is an introduction of a fundraising component to the walk in order to encourage participants to own the event.
Registration is Rwf2,000 for adults, Rwf1,000 for students and upon paying Rwf5,000 one gets both registration plus an Ulinzi T-shirt. The money goes into BCIEA supports efforts in the country, according to organisers.
The walk will start at 8am at Church of Christ Rwanda, Gacuriro, around 11am, to MTN Centre and then Tennis Club in Nyarutarama before participants return to the church.
Thereafter, they will attend a community forum and hear from a panel comprising medical doctors, patients, survivors, advocates, students and community leaders.
A free Clinical Breast Exam, Clinics and children’s corner will be provided. This will be followed by fellowship, networking, food, fun and a closing ceremony at around 4pm.
According to the organisers, ‘Ulinzi Walk’ is making impact and the public response is gaining momentum. The devastating impact of breast cancer hits families without discrimination, therefore, people are looking for solutions to prevent and fight the disease.
“The feedback we are getting is encouraging and we will not give up because we are optimistic ‘Ulinzi Walk’ will touch and change lives, it is our mission,” Kibugu said.
“We are seeking support from the government, policy makers and the public because I believe that with proper funding and partnerships more can be achieved.”