By Chioma Obinna
Undoubtedly, the number of women choosing to have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy has been increasing. However, there are other options considering the implications of having another surgery.
For Cecilia Ogolo, diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, the prosthetic breast has given her another reason to feel like a complete woman.
“The first time I wore prosthetic breast, it felt strange but fulfilling,” the 13 years breast cancer survivor, said amid tears of joy.
Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32, Cecilia’s world came crashing on her. She felt defeated, scared and suicidal, but with the support of family and friends, she pulled through and had her first mastectomy (removal of one breast).
READ ALSO: Breast cancer not a death sentence, 7.8m women diagnosed still alive five years after — Medical Expert
“After the surgery, I could not look in the mirror. I hated any relationship with my breast.” She started using all forms of materials.
“It’s neither comfortable nor natural. When I raised my arm, I always worried that the towel in the bra would fall off. It was then I decided to get a prosthesis. I remembered the first fitting experience I was emotional about it. I can remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, I am back. The prosthesis helped me feel and look like my old self,” she said.
Sadly, among women living with breast cancer women, common psychological symptoms in the adaptation to the disease are reduction in self-esteem and distorted body image.
According to the World Health Organisation, breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, with 2.26 million cases recorded in 2020.
WHO 2021 report showed that breast cancer was also the 5th leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide in 2020, with 685,000 deaths attributed to it.
In Nigeria, breast cancer cases are now increasing as a result of urbanisation and lifestyle changes. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths currently, representing about 23 per cent of all cancer cases and approximately 18 per cent of deaths are attributed to it in the country.
In the views of the Executive Director of Care. Organisation. Public Enlightenment, C.O.P E, Mrs Ebun Anozie, from breast cancer patients to long-time survivors, there are needs that need to be met when it comes to quality of life and enhancing self-esteem through bras and prosthesis.
Anozie who spoke last week during the unveiling of its Prosthesis and Bra shop in Lagos said access to prostheses has helped many survivors with their healing and recovery.
She said with improved medical technology, the treatment of breast cancer has come to include not just survival but also patients’ quality of life.
In order to increase women’s confidence and ensure public awareness of the disease, COPE has established a franchise with amenoa of Germany.
Anozie said from records of their monthly screening, 1 out of 12 women will have breast cancer in Nigeria.
“We have just launched the prosthesis shop. Just like if you lose a leg you have a prosthetic leg and now when a woman has a mastectomy done, instead of walking with one breast and look awkward, we will provide you with a prosthetic to live a comfortable and assured life and also to boost self-confidence and regain their self-esteem.
Stating that it was possible by the Variant Advisory CEO, Mr Kehinde Durosimi Etti supported by Access Bank,, Anozie stated that Nigerian survivors don’t need to worry about what to wear when they lose their breasts as they have bras and prosthetics of different shapes and sizes from amenoa of Germany., Anozie added that breast cancer was not a death sentence if detected early, urged the federal government to support cancer patients and organisations providing awareness on the disease.
Describing cancer treatment in Nigeria as a broken record, she said women should always examine their breasts regularly and stop running to churches or other religious homes but get treatment.
“After menstruation, once you reach puberty, please examine your breasts. You are checking for the size the shape and texture of the breast so that if there’s any wrong one thing you will know. Make sure that when you are 40, give yourself a birthday gift. Go for a mammogram. It will not show, once you are less than 40, because of the density of your breast. You can have your doctor tell you how many times possible you can do it.
Speaking during the launch of the shop, the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Prof Osato –Giwa Osagie, who noted that over the years, technology has changed in terms of treatment of breast cancer said breast prosthesis and bras remain a big problem in the treatment of breast cancer due to the thought of removing one breast.
He said the need to address people’s self-consciousness was one of the reasons why COPE got interested to bring in bras and prosthetics.
“When the surgeon is telling a woman that I am going to remove your breast he will also tell her that we also have what we can wear so that people will not know that you have had a mastectomy.”
“It is very important for those that have had a mastectomy. It can be psychological. We have a 22 years survivor. The outlook is getting better because of early diagnosis and again, micro diagnosis, they don’t just do the diagnosis but they will tell you the type. The moment they start treatment they will hit it hard.
One of the survivors who did not want her name in print among the two who were presented with a prosthesis, who noted that COPE not only cares about their recovery and treatment but cares about them and survival.
“For those who have finished treatment that still wants to keep checking, there is a free ultrasound scan for the entire members. Sometimes women run out of money because the medication is expensive if she finds people or organisations that can be of help, for them to complete treatment in most cases can cost nothing less than N4 million, even N10 million but she is constantly available to help and that is the beauty of COPE.”
“We are calling on the federal government to assist in subsidising cancer treatment, when a woman died of cancer it has multiple implications on the nation, family and children in particular.”