KIGALI - Breast cancer survivors are pleading to the government and well-wishers to increase medication prescribed to breast cancer patients and survivors.
They claim that there is lack of effective treatment for cancers in Rwanda and yet the number of those affected is increasing.
The plea was made during the Ulinzi Walk organised by Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa Inc (BCIEA). The walk aimed at increasing awareness about breast cancer and replace fear with hope amongst patients.
The walk was attended by more than 100 women and men including breast cancer survivors.
Most breast cancer survivors diagnosed from Rwanda undergo surgery in Uganda, Kenya or India on government sponsorship.
“The government tries to do everything possible to save the lives of all patients. Sometimes patients are flown out of the country for treatment, however, I believe we should have the expertise here in Rwanda to make it easier and accessible for every patient,” said Oda Nsabimana, a breast cancer survivor.
Nsabimana, 49, felt a lump in her breast as she was dressing up one morning to go to work. Days later, she decided to visit a doctor and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Nsabimana underwent treatment in Kenya and India. She says the number of patients has increased to the extent that the government may not be in position to fly everybody out for treatment in future.
“In 2003, my breast was cut off but I have to go for check up every year. Since then, I have met many people with breast cancer including one who died last night,” she said.
Nsabimana added that the quickest solution is frequent awareness campaigns to sensitise women to go for check up as many times as they can.
“Breast cancer is not painful that is why there is need to frequently visit a doctor. The pain develops when the situation is out of control,” she said.
Another survivor, Joyce Ubarijoro was diagnosed in 2007 and underwent surgery.
“It is quite hard for a cancer patient to believe that she has to lose one or both of her breasts but it is necessary for survival...if a woman is lucky, she gets to know that she has the cancer at an early stage but the problem is, breast cancer is not painful at this stage so many women tend to ignore it,” Ubarijoro said.
She added that; “to be sincere, we have the treatment but it is not adequate and cancer is spreading at a fast rate. That is why we need to have better ways of dealing with this problem here in Rwanda.”
According to Methode Bahizi, a university student who had participated in the Walk, the issue of breast cancer should not be left to women only since men too are affected.
“Those that suffer from breast cancer are our sisters, mothers, relatives and friends, who are very important to us; that is why we have to ensure that we campaign for their survival,” he said.
Philippa Kibugu Decuir, a breast cancer survivor, who is also the founder and director of BCIEA, said that currently, people are realising the importance of breast cancer awareness.
“Breast cancer is on the raise in most developing countries because of lack of health infrastructure and services as well as lack of knowledge among women,” she said.
Decuir added that when she first came to Rwanda in 2008, she met 27 women who had breast cancer. But when she revisited in 2010, only three were alive. One of the she met died last Saturday.