“It has become increasingly concerning how many people are being diagnosed with breast cancer in Ghana. There is unfortunately a lack of education and a worrying degree of stigmatisation towards the disease,” says Dr Vanessa Mensah-Kabu.
Breast cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Ghana, while globally it is only the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths (2020)1. To raise awareness globally on breast cancer, October is known as the Pink Month. Throughout this month, efforts are made to increase worldwide education about the disease.
According to studies, only 4.5% of older Ghanaian women have ever undergone breast cancer screenings. 70% of those diagnosed were at an advanced stage, which highlights the importance of early and regular screenings. Dr Mensah-Kabu explains that, “during Pink Month, myths are debunked and women are encouraged to seek help early.”
Dr Vanessa Mensah-Kabu is a Medical Officer at the West African Rescue Association (WARA), an International SOS affiliated company operating emergency medical services and clinics in Ghana. Together with the rest of the International SOS team in Ghana, she participated in several activities this October to raise awareness around breast cancer.
Every October, the Ministry of Health in Ghana along with several organisations, seize the opportunity of Pink Month to raise awareness about breast cancer. International SOS is one of the partners participating to the activities dedicated to members of the community at large.
Victoria Boamah, Clinic Manager at WARA, explains that:
We help organisations to develop, grow and protect human capital at work and in life, for now and the future. Our products and services help our clients achieve their own sustainability goals and meet their reporting requirements.
Around 300 women were reached through a series of awareness sessions conducted at clients’ sites such as Tullow Oil and Eni Ghana. Our teams delivered talks on breast cancer (including its causes and treatments), demonstrated self-examination techniques, and performed screenings at our clinics.
In turn, these women are now equipped with knowledge that they can share with their friends and family, to further raise awareness around breast cancer.
As a member of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI France) in Ghana, we also had the opportunity to make an impact on OAfrica, a local non-governmental organisation (NGO). CCI France Ghana in partnership with Quest Medical Imaging, sponsored the breast cancer screenings of 20 women from this NGO. International SOS joined the initiative and delivered a breast cancer awareness talk, as well as a CPR training to the beneficiaries.
One of the attendees from OAfrica shared that,
Today has been insightful, and I have learnt a lot. Early detection is important in the prevention of breast cancer, and I am glad I had the opportunity for a free breast examination.
Armelle Sae-Jeanne, Managing Director at CCI France Ghana, added: “By supporting our CSR action and sending us a health professional to extensively discuss with less privileged women, International SOS did not only contribute to sharing knowledge about the disease to 20 women but also allowed us to reach a greater community. The women that participated in the programme are pillars in their community and have already put in place measures to share all the knowledge they gathered on that day. In addition, the CPR training they received was also very useful as they are the ones in direct contact with the children and the young adults that are part of the NGO and hence the ones that will be administrating first aid in case of an emergency.”
To further raise awareness around breast cancer, the International SOS teams also participated in a 5km charity run. It was organised by Run for a Cure Africa Ghana, an association with the vision of reducing the breast cancer mortality rate in Ghana.
Dr Mensah-Kabu believes that every action counts to reduce stigmatisation around this form of cancer. To further empower women, she recommends the following:
- Knowing the anatomy and structure of the breast
- Being aware of the different diseases affecting the breasts
- Controlling risk factors such as weight, alcohol consumption, etc.
- Self-breast examinations and regular visits to the clinic
- Knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer
The different activities led by our teams this year left Ghanaian women feeling more empowered and confident. Victoria Boamah believes that,
We need to show women that there is hope, and that they can get treated if the disease gets diagnosed quickly.