By Idowu Sowunmi
From Ogun Central to Ogun East and Ogun West, the story is the same. Cancer is no respecter of colour, religion, age or social status. The alarming threat of cancer cases, coupled with the lack of dedicated hospitals to tame the deadly disease, has left many in permanent fear and uncertain future. And the death toll arising from cancer cases is distressing.
There’s low awareness and poor support for victims.
The explanation of most people is painted in religious and cultural beliefs. The regular storyline is that anyone with cancer has suddenly suffered a spiritual attack or has been baptised with the firepower of an arrow.
This was the situation in Ogun State until the intervention of the First Lady, Mrs. Olufunso Amosun.
Thus, on October 4, 2012, Mrs. Amosun, through her Uplift Development Foundation, organised the first major Free Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness and Screening programme in four different locations in Ogun State.
The programme, held in collaboration with the Ogun State Medical Women Association (MWAN), took off at the Primary Health Care Centre, Olorunda in Ogun Central.
The awareness campaign train moved from there to the Primary Health Care Centres, Sagamu and Idari, both in Ogun East on October 18, 2012. The next port of call was the Primary Health Care Centre, Ilaro, Ogun West on October 24, 2012.
Encouraged by the huge success recorded in 2012, the wife of the state governor embarked on another round of Free Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness and Screening Exercise in 2013.
The exercise started at the Primary Health Care Centres, Ikenne and Alapo, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun East on October 21, 2013 and later held at the Primary Health Care Centre, Adedero, Ogun Central and the Primary Health Care Centre, Ibile, Ogun West.
The campaign was sustained in 2014 but in 2015, Mrs. Amosun’s Uplift Development Foundation focused on tertiary institutions in Ogun State and gave female students the rare opportunity to get screened free of charge.
The campaign was also taken to rural women at the Primary Health Care Centres in Itori and Sango-Ota in Ewekoro and Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Areas.
More than 1,200 people were screened and various degrees of breast lumps discovered. Moved by the increasing number of victims, the First Lady said they should not be abandoned to their fate.
Thus, she discussed the matter with her husband, Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who decided to foot the bill to excise the breast lumps of the affected women.
A surprising aspect of the 2015 programme was the discovery of a man with a breast lump. Meanwhile, about 40 breast lumps were discovered in women and, after screening, 30 were removed and histology done.
In 2016, Mrs. Amosun took the bolder step to battle cancer by establishing three Uplift Development Foundation Cancer Screening Centres across the three senatorial districts of Ogun State.
Her position is that the centres, located at the State Hospital, Ijaiye, Abeokuta; Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu; and the State Hospital, Ota, in Ogun Central; Ogun East; and Ogun West respectively, should provide free breast and cervical cancer screening for all and sundry.
Same year, the wife of the state governor organised a free cancer screening exercise for market and rural women at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Abeokuta. More than 2,000 people were screened and about 70 cases of breast lumps were discovered. Also, after screening, 40 breast lumps were removed during the Second Edition of the Annual Free Lumpectomy Surgery which took place at OOUTH between October 20 and 21, 2016. In addition, 20 cases of women with cervical lesions were treated through cryotherapy.
This year, Mrs. Amosun’s Uplift Development Foundation focused on female professionals and civil/public servants. The programme was organised at the Uplift Development Foundation Cancer Screening Centres in Ota, Ijaiye and Sagamu respectively between October 2 and 4, 2017.
During the occasion, the First Lady harped on the need for women to examine their breasts regularly and seek prompt medical attention in case of any abnormality in order to reduce the prevalence of breast cancer. She added that early detection is the only prevention for cancer.
She said, “Due to the prevalence of breast cancer among women, the Uplift Development Foundation took the initiative to launch a massive cancer sensitisation campaign to raise awareness about the disease, which a survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that, by 2020, there would be 10 million new cases of cancer every year in developing countries, out of which six million will die.”
She explained that breast and cervical cancer diseases are very serious health challenges that mainly affect women irrespective of age, status and religion. She urged women from age 16 and above to carry out self-breast examinations on themselves every month after their menstrual period or any other time if they feel uncomfortable with their breasts.
Mrs. Amosun charged participants at the events to take action to curb breast and cervical cancer by availing themselves of the free screening to know their health status so that the risk of these diseases could reduce. She enjoined women to visit any of the Uplift Development Foundation Cancer Screening Centres closer to them throughout October, 2017 and beyond for free screening and treatment.
At the end of the three-day free cancer examination, more than 3,000 women were screened; about 50 cases of various lumps were detected; and three cases of advanced breast cancer established. About 100 cases of cervical lesions were also discovered.
The wife of the state governor assured that all the cases of the breast lumps will be attended to during the Third Edition of the Annual Free Lumpectomy Surgery scheduled to take place between October 26 and 27, 2017 at the Uplift Development Foundation Cancer Screening Centre in Sagamu. She also said all the cases of cervical lesions would receive appropriate treatment immediately like the women with breast lumps. She added that the three advanced cases of the cancer reported will be given optimum attention.
She commended her sponsors for the breakthroughs in the cancer awareness and screening exercise in Ogun State in the last five years. She challenged individuals and corporate organisations to support laudable initiatives aimed at societal developments.