By Chioma Obinna
Are you a philanthropic organisation? A stakeholder in cancer care and support,? Even if you are not, do you know that with a donation of N1 million every year, you can save the lives of 333 Nigerian women from breast cancer.
This is the latest initiative of a non-governmental organisation, Care, Organisation, Public Enlightenment, COPE, tagged: Wall of Fame, a campaign that targets corporate organisations and philanthropists to get involved in the early diagnosis of breast cancer nationwide.
COPE, the first cancer awareness organisation established 23 years ago to champion the cause of women with breast cancer, has been contributing to the reduction in the mortality rate of breast cancer through offering information and services to combat the disease and make treatment affordable.
According to statistics from cancerindex.org, breast and cervical cancers account for 60.4 per cent of all cancers in women.
Sadly, many Nigerian women have lost their lives to breast cancer due to late presentations, poor diagnosis and lack of access to quality treatment,
However, a recent tour of the Wall of Fame by Good Health Weekly revealed that hope was on the horizon for Nigerian women if the benefits targeted to be achieved by the corporate campaign against the disease is anything to go by.
A first timer to the Wall of Fame will conclude it is an art galleria as logos of companies that have bought into the programme were displayed in a stylish manner. But on the contrary, it was designed to offer hope and bring the country closer to achieving a reduction in breast cancer deaths.
The Wall of Fame visibly displayed what they tagged:TheBig10 sponsors for the public to appreciate their partnership in fighting breast cancer as corporate social responsibility.
Findings show that the Wall of Fame is strictly designed to check increasing deaths from cancer, ensure early detection and increase the chances of survival of patients.
Throwing light on the initiative, the Chief Executive of COPE, Mrs Ebun Anozie, said an annual contribution of N1 million by a company or organisation can make a positive difference in the lives of 333 Nigerian women at an individual cost of N3,000 for a breast ultrasound scan screening.
Under the Wall of Fame campaign, members of staff and customers will be beneficiaries, women will equally have the opportunity to get screened regardless of their location and socio-economic status.
For Anozie, with the initiative, the perception that cancer is a death sentence, will be a thing of the past as early detection gives a better chance of surviving breast cancer and is also cheaper.
“Prompt screening with efficiency is assured. It will facilitate broad networks of cancer control partners and experts at the national level. It will also help develop standards and tools to guide the planning and implementation of interventions for prevention, early diagnosis, screening, treatment and palliative care,” she explained.
“For instance, if a bank keys into it, apart from giving the vouchers to customers to use, there are also female bank staff that can use the voucher for their screening. It does not necessarily mean that a customer must have breast cancer before the voucher is given to a customer as a thank you gift.”
Further, Anozie who stated that her dream was to take breast cancer screening and diagnosis to the next level, maintained that Wall of Fame was to achieve most importantly, early detection.
Listing some of the companies that have keyed into the initiative to include; Skye Bank, Access Bank, Citi Bank, variant Advisory, Union Bank Plc., and Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency, LASAA, she appealed to more companies to come on board and partner with COPE to sow back into the lives of people who are doing business with them.
“If they are not alive and healthy, they can’t do business with you, that is just the essence but if they are alive and healthy, they can do business with you so a token of N3, 000 to your client is nothing compared to what the people have invested into your own organisation.”
“For Nigerians who may not be patronising any of the fortunate companies or organisations, they can benefit from COPE’s every first Saturday of the month’s breast ultrasound scan. For good 16 years, we did it free for women. I believe that if I can afford aseobi, I can afford an ultrasound scan with just N1, 000 and have my breast examined.”
She further called for the inclusion of breast self-examination into the curriculum of schools as part of efforts to nip the disease in the bud.
“Breast self-examination should be done a week after a young girl has finished her menstruation so that, if there is anything unusual happening, it can easily be noticed and see a doctor. Some of the lumps can be cancerous.”
Lamenting high cost of drugs, she said: “I am also appealing to pharmaceutical organisations to reduce the cost of breast cancer drugs as some medication cost as high as N700, 000 and the patient may be required to take up to 13 of it.”
Diagnosis of cancer remains a family experience that could change the lives of all members of a family. The disease is known to bring immense stress and many challenging situations. Once it is diagnosed, daily routine, common activities and distribution of duties in any family will automatically take a different turn. Many Nigerian families are suffering a great deal today due to the devastating impact of the disease. Most marriages have been shattered due to the condition.
Unfortunately, while treatment advances have changed the course of cancer, making it much easier to offer patients hope at the time of diagnosis even in smaller neighbouring countries like Ghana, the situation is still bleak in Nigeria. Treatments are hampered due to lack of diagnostic equipment for proper management, non- availability of comprehensive cancer centres, and financial incapability of families affected.
However, health watchers are of the opinion that if more organisations will key into the programme, it would increase political commitment for prevention and control accessibility in screening, thereby preventing deaths of women.