The 5th edition of annual Ulinzi Walk, an initiative to fight cancer attracted hundreds in Kigali yesterday.
The walk was organized by Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa ( BCIEA) Inc, which was launched in Rwanda in 2009 as a non-profit, grassroots organization. It was founded by 16-year breast cancer survivor, Philippa Kibugu-Decuir.
Held under the theme; “Breast cancer is everybody’s business worth investing in to save life”, participants in the walk also engaged in a community health forum, free clinical breast exam, blood pressure and diabetes screening.
Dr Francois Uwinkindi, the director of cancer treatment unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, told Sunday Times that the cost of treating cancer was too high and therefore measures are being taken to bring down the cost.
“In Rwanda, we treat cancer in two ways, namely; medicaments and surgery, which requires between Rwf3m and Rwf4m, while when we send patients who need radiotherapy abroad to countries such as Kenya and India, it requires over $9,000. We will have radiotherapy in Rwanda in March next year where this $9,000 could decrease to $2,000 if a patient is treated locally,” he said.
The Ministry says there was need for early diagnosis to detect cancer so that it gets treated at an early stage to increase chances of survival.
Diane Mukasahaha, the national coordinator of palliative care, said Rwanda had introduced a palliative care policy to support patients who have reached a late stage because they were not treated early due to lack of knowledge and awareness on the importance of early screening.
“Girls should physically check if there is something wrong in the breast so that doctors help them at an early stage. We need to strengthen awareness because at an early stage, the treatment cannot be too costly since the health insurance can cover it,” she said.
Philippa Kibugu-Decuir said she was mobilising funds to support women with breast cancer so that they can afford the cost of treatment.
“For example, I have an initiative where through the campaign of hope that has already kicked off, I target to mobilise Rwf100m to support women with breast cancer to pay for treatment. That is why today’s walk was also targeting to mobilise Rwf5 million. It is everybody’s business to help save lives of people,” she said.
She said her initiative had helped over 9,000 women to acquire basic knowledge about breast cancer such as risk factors, signs and symptoms, importance of early detection and self-awareness
“The theme of this year’s Ulinzi Walk calls on everybody to join the fight against breast cancer and encompass all its supporting programmes, namely education outreach, one Smartphone per Village to educate women about cancer in different forums, as well as the BCIEA Breast Cancer Survivors Support Group,” she said.
Other programmes, she said, include, Knitted Knockers Programme with Made-in-Rwanda knitted breast prostheses now known as “Knitted Knockers”, which are cost-effective and user-friendly alternatives for patients and survivors.
Kibugu-Decuir explained that only two breast cancer patients out of 10 die in the USA because of financial capacity, while in Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa, seven patients out of 10 die because they cannot afford the cost of treatment.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 70 per cent of all cancer deaths occur in low and middle income countries where resources for prevention, diagnosis and treatment are limited or nonexistent.