Thousands of people yesterday took part in a walk to create awareness against breast cancer. The awareness campaign was organized by Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA).
The walk which has been held every year since 2012 later saw participants carrying out tests to know their status and receiving information from doctors about breast cancer.
Phillipa Kibugu, the founder and director of BCIEA said that breast cancer does more than affect one’s health.
She said, when a woman loses her breast a lot of her self-image is lost. For the developed countries it’s easier to have surgery and get an implant but this is still a challenge for developing countries.
She however comforted survivors with a new initiative she came up with her partner from the United States.
“I got in touch with a lady in USA, Barbara Demorest who makes Knitted Knockers for women who have lost breasts to cancer. She is going to make them for free and this will help in the restoration of the women’s esteem,” Kibugu said.
Knitted Knockers are artificial breasts that can be worn by those who have undergone mastectomy.
Kibugu appreciated all the efforts so far in the fight against breast cancer however she said that more still needs to be done.
“What we need is awareness, education and empowerment. Early detection is the best protection, I know we can do it and we can own it.”
Dr Emmanuel Rudakemwa, a senior consultant radiologist at King Faisal Hospital, pointed out unfortunate situations where cancer patients wait for many months before they are offered treatment, this only worsens the situation, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that we can have a condition where some patients have to wait for two to three months to get treatment. That is an indication for weakness in the system,” he said.
“There is no reason why somebody is diagnosed with cancer and then be told to come back after some months for treatment. Cancer cases are urgent cases,” he added.
Dr Rudakemwa also said that people need to have information about the disease arguing that knowing facts such as cancer being a genetic disease is very important.
“What we need is advocacy and motivation from people that have survived the disease. Lots of lives have been lost to cancer but people should know that the earlier detection the better.”
“I wish we had so many organisations like BCIEA to fight cancer because it’s not only breast cancer that we have. We also have cervical cancer, liver cancer among others, more needs to be done,” Dr Rudakemwa said.
Godfrey Rubanyarare, one of the people who took part in the walk praised the the organisers because it was one way of beating the disease.
“I wanted to be a part of this to mobilise the population to be aware of breast cancer. This walk has an impact, but without the media input the impact can’t be that big,” he said.
“This is the second time that I am participating in this walk. At first I knew nothing about cancer but the more I am participating the more I am equipped with the knowledge that I have now about the disease,” Rubanyarare said.
An emotional Maimuna Kemirembe, a breast cancer survivor thanked BCIEA for the great work done and that because of the information she had, she managed to survive the disease.
“I first came to know of my condition in 2013 after feeling pain in my breast. I didn’t mind about it thinking that it was menopause, but when the pain persisted, I went for a check-up and the doctor told me I was fine,” she recalled.
“It was my daughter who insisted that I go for another serious check-up worried that it could be breast cancer. In 2014, I went to King Faisal and I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Kemirembe however partly blamed the health system for the delay in offering treatment to cancer patients arguing that in some way it deters the fight.
“When I went for treatment they told me that the doctor wasn’t available and would be back after a month. I had to seek treatment in Nairobi and today I am cancer free,” she narrated.
She however advised patients that breast cancer needed to be fought with resolve and a positive attitude.
Paul Nsengumuremyi a male breast cancer survivor was evidence enough to blow the notion that breast cancer attacked women only.
He said that the lump he had for over a year was sign enough to alert him of the serious condition but he dismissed it.
“I used to have a belief that breast cancer is an illness for women, but in 2010 I had a swelling in my breast and thought it would go away. I waited for over a year but it didn’t, in 2011 I went for check up and I found out that I had breast cancer. I was shocked but luckily it was still in its early stages, I was operated on I got treatment from Butaro Cancer Centre,” he narrated.