By Hannah Dadzie
GBCNEWS continues its series on the Pink October Month and in today’s feature, Hannah Dadzie examines the myths and misconceptions about diseases, particularly, Breast Cancer. Indeed, breast cancer has left many in total despair, fear and rejection by society and sometimes family members because of the enormous time required for treatment. There is no doubt that sufferers need adequate funds to handle this debilitating sickness, that some have blamed on unnatural causes and superstitious beliefs. Is there hope?
“I was in my bathroom, just checking this normal breast routine examination, because I had just finished my menses. And I felt something in my left breast, I didn’t know what it was, so I went to confront my mum about it. She said I should just use pomade it will go, but it didn’t go. Six months later, I got into a relationship so I confided in my boyfriend and informed him, he told me his sister also had a lump in her breast, so he told her and a whole lot of people asked me to go to the hospital but my boyfriend also suggested we go to the the herbalists. I listened to him, going to herbalists and a whole lot of places. They were all telling. me it was nothing, they gave me medicine that the thing will melt, it wasn’t melting, it was even becoming bigger and I was afraid.” Akua, Breast Cancer Survivor narrates
This is how Akua, not her real name found out that she had breast cancer. She is among many other women who experience pain in the breast but end up at the hospital very late due to delay in seeking early diagnosis. Breast cancer remains one of the most prevalent cancers worldwide, affecting millions of women. As the awareness month of October comes to a close, it is essential to address the myths and misconceptions surrounding this disease. A survivor and now the President of Peace And Love Survivors Association (PALSA), Vivian Gyasi Sarfo tells me her journey through recovery from breast cancer.
“I have survived breast cancer for 20 years, I was diagnosed at age 47. By then I have not had any lecture about breast cancer before and I had not got myself screened even though I had a lump, I didn’t know. It got to a point I wasn’t feeling well, so I was going to different hospitals and nobody told me I had breast cancer. I started reducing in weight with some funny signs and symptoms. So one day I realized my right breast was paining me, I advised myself to visit the hospital because of my sister, and when I went to the Peace and Love Hospital I was screened and it came out that I had early stage breast cancer. I was advised, so I did the surgery then started the Chemotherapy, after that I did radiotherapy for 16 days and by the Grace of God I’m fit.” Mrs Sarfo indicated
Mrs Sarfo said she got the indication that it was a family disease because two of her family members had been diagnosed with the same disease.She said some women are not lucky as they are rejected by friends and family after diagnosis. She urged women to be courageous and seek early treatment, which is the surest way to save their lives
“I have the positive family history, meaning I’m the third person in my family to be diagnosed of breast cancer. The first person was my blood sister, she was 35years and the second was my cousin. I lost my hair and my skin became dark. My husband, family and friends helped me a lot unlike other women it’s a lot for them. I have always advised women to help erase the stigma and myths. The PALSA President said
Some people believe that if one does not have a family history of breast cancer, she is free from the disease. Also, if one maintains a healthy weight, exercise regularly, eat healthily, and limit alcohol intake, one is hopeful of avoiding the disease. One therefore need not to worry about wearing bras because of the superstitious belief that bras, particularly when worn tight, can cause cancer. Besides, some are also of the view that underarm antiperspirant can cause breast cancer. President of Breast Care International, Dr. Mrs. Beatrice Wiafe Addai debunked the perceptions and suspicions. She stated that every woman is at risk of getting breast cancer.
“They think it’s caused by withcraft, they think it’s a spiritual disease, they think it’s a curse on a family, they think it’s by faith. So because of all these people find it difficult to go to the hospital as the first point of call. One big myth is hereditary, and hereditary is just a risk factor.
Every woman is at risk but if you have a family positive issue then your risk goes a bit higher” That’s what we should let our people understand” Dr Mrs Wiafe Addai said
Dr. Mrs. Wiafe Addai urged Ghanaians to do away with myths and misconceptions and continue to create awareness for a better understanding of the disease.
” We are very superstitious, very religious and so whenever a woman has a problem and the fact that they think it’s caused by witchcraft, it’s a spiritual thing, it’s somebody else who is causing it, so we first go to the church, and it’s unfortunate that a lot prayer camps are accepting these women and keeping them. We are saying that we also believe in God, but we should let our pastors pray for us, while we go to the hospital” She noted.
She said women should do away with certain lifestyles which contribute to getting breast cancer.
“The pomade you use on your body if it’s one of these natural products, like shea butter, they will not cause any changes in the body, but if someone uses the skin lightening agents, those are risk factors for breast cancer. Another thing is what we consume, what we eat and drink or smoke. We are advising our women to desist from these bad lifestyles,”Mrs Dr Wiafe Addai indicated
The Paramount King of the Igbo Community in Ghana, who is also an advocate in fighting breast cancer, Eze Dr. Chukwudi Ihenetu expressed worry, saying these misconceptions lead a lot of women to prayer camps, who are then deceived by so called Men of God.
As Ghana marks the end of pink October month, it is essential for Ghanaian women in particular, to recommit to regularly check for breast cancer. May we honor those we have lost, offer strength to those who continue to live with breast cancer, and work to protect the health of future generations.