Empowers 50,000 women with treatment
By Chioma Obinna
It was an afternoon of testimonies last Thursday when organisations, individuals and breast cancer survivors relieved their heart-rending stories of how Care. Organisation. Public Enlightenment, C.O.PE rescued them from the clutches of the disease.
For these survivors, whose post-breast cancer survival years ranged from eight to 23 years, it was a moment to share their joy and let the public know that breast cancer was no longer a death sentence when it is discovered early and appropriate treatment initiated.
They were also full of appreciation to C.O.PE for the moral and financial assistance through the pre-treatment and post-management phases of their breast cancer journey. They said the organisation gave them reasons to continue living.
In the views of Mrs. Nnenna Obasi, whose case was discovered in 2013, ”It was a harrowing journey, but with the support of Mrs. Ebun Anozie and C.O.PE, I am here today. I live a normal life, I am healthy. This is my eighth year as a breast cancer survivor,” she said amidst smiles.
Another survivor, Mrs. Bolanle Uwaoje said though she had removed lumps in her breast three times, her breast cancer case began in 2014 when doctors confirmed her worst, but she was thankful to C.O.PE for providence that crossed their path.
”The compassion, care and love that I received through Mrs. Ebun Anozie cannot be quantified. I am a living testimony of how much God has used her to give me hope and reason to live a happy woman. It’s going to eight years now; I am fine and hope that it will continue to be fine. Thanks to C.O.PE for your support,” she said.
Addressing the gathering the Executive Director of COPE, Mrs Ebun Anozie who took everyone to memory lane said the organisation was established to reduce the mortality rate of breast cancer in Nigeria through screening, counselling, referral, education, enlightenment and nurturing.
Reeling out the milestones in the last 26 years of supporting Nigerian women to mitigate, overcome and lessen the psychological, financial and socio-economic burdens of the killer-disease, she said no fewer than 50,000 women have been supported for treatment in Nigeria.
Founded in 1995, recently the organisation has broken new grounds into other areas of reproductive system including cervical and prostate cancers.
At a media briefing earlier as part of activities to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the NGO, the Founder/Chief Executive Officer, said awareness and advocacy by COPE has resulted in many more women going for breast examination as well as speaking up about breast cancer, unlike in the past that it was considered a taboo.
Anozie revealed that her organisation has screened more than 50,000 women across over 10 states in Nigeria beside Lagos, while disclosing that plans were underway to acquire a breast cancer screening mobile van and the construction of a permanent operation base as part of steps to increase the number of beneficiaries of its breast cancer intervention next year.
She said the organisation runs a free monthly breast screening and counselling for women suffering from the disease but would now be bimonthly.
She who said that data from their breast ultrasound scan screening initiatives, which spans over two decades, showed that one in 12 women is expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer and many cases occur in premenopausal women further, lamented that their latest data showed an increased as it has further increased to 1 in 8 Nigerian women.
She said through the support of organizations like Polaris Bank, Leadway Assurance. Variant Advisory, Union Bank, Access Bank, Pfizer, EKO FM87.9, Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA), Ford Foundation, Ashoka, UBA, Cadbury, Citibank, Mr. Kehinde Durosinmi-Eti, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, ex- First Lady Mrs. Abimbola Fashola, veteran broadcaster Mr. Lekan Ogunbanwo, among several others, they have been able
Anozie, however, lamented that breast cancer rate in Nigeria was still high due to factors including late presentation, lack of finance due to the high cost of treatment, illiteracy, cultural and religious beliefs, and fear of losing their breasts.
”Unfortunately, more recently, our monthly screenings show that one out of eight women has lumps in their breasts. Some women who have cancerous lumps in their breasts refuse to use orthodox medicine and seek traditional means or go to religious houses, while others don’t do anything due to lack of finance or fear of losing their breast,” she stated.
She called on the Federal Government to set up a National Breast Cancer Centre in Nigeria, encouraged all women to undergo annual breast examination and all men of 40 years above to go for medical check-up, just as she solicited more support for C.O.PE as well as love for persons going through breast cancer.
On his part, Chairman, Board of Trustees, C.O.PE, Prof. Frank Osato Giwa-Osagie, commended Anozie for her courage and commitment to the vision of the NGO, noting that through her advocacy, awareness and unrelenting support to breast cancer patients, she has given hope and joy to many families that have given up because of the devastating effect of cancer especially breast cancer.
The high point of the event was the unveiling of a 10-minute video on Breast Self-Examination (BSE) that teaches women the step-by-step of breast self-examination, and enabled by Pfizer.