Friday, October 15, 2010

The Pink Month

I have not been inundated with emails from friends, acquaintances or companies calling for my support of Breast Cancer Month and asking me to display, just for this month, my pink ribbon either on my screen saver, my being or anywhere really where I can be reminded of the global efforts in the fight against breast cancer.
I am rather dismayed by this. The rest of the world is complaining about Pink Ribbon fatigue, but Ghana is nowhere close to even raising levels of awareness to such heights.

There are NGOs that are doing their bit to raise the level of awareness required to ensure some semblance of information dissemination- but it is all within the confines of Women's Health in general, with no specific focus on cancer. The access to information in first world countries on the disease, is not to be found here, so ensuring that annual screenings become a part of every woman's health check is undoubtedly unrealistic in a country where health care access is still a luxury. To some getting a mammogram sounds like an expensive or even abstract procedure, given the lack of information, and this applies to women both in the rural and urban areas.

Dr. Wiafe Addai, an oncologist based in Kumasi runs an organisation called Breast Care International  which aims to create an awareness of breast cancer and encourage early screening by women especially in the rural areas. Her work in raising awareness among women (and men) is commendable, but she seems like the one audible voice on the issue. Cancer does not seem to be an item on the Health Issues Agenda of Ghana, given the minimal media coverage the disease has received this month, and it is telling when a search for Oncologists in Ghana yields just two results.

I played in the Achimota Ladies' Monthly Medal yesterday, in a  competition dedicated to Breast Cancer Month and it was an event well attended by golfers in their late thirties to early seventies. There was a male guest speaker who spoke of losing his wife to breast cancer several years ago - to be applauded for having the courage to speak on a topic so shrouded in both secrecy and mystery in Ghana.
The Lady Captain, herself a survivor, encouraged the audience to go for their annual mammograms in addition to their self-examinations. I was horrified when speaking to fellow golfers to hear that for some, their first screenings had only been in recent years, and others never at all. These are educated women who are all older than fifty and within a socio-economic group that gives them better access to information and health care services.

The Ladies of Achimota Golf Club did their bit to honour the Month and yet it still felt hollow and somewhat self-indulgent when one thinks of the millions of women who neither neither access to the technology that could ensure their early detection nor the information to inform them of the potential health risks once they reach the age that puts them at risk.
I will continue to wear my pink ribbon, with the hope that someone will ask what it is for and I will, in my small way, be that one extra voice encouraging early detection screenings.

Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and Medical Imaging Ghana Ltd are some of the institutions that offer mammogram screenings for women in Ghana - but they are in Accra  and Kumasi only.

Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (Opposite Korle-Bu Lorry Station in Korlegonno, Accra)
Trust Hospital 
Oxford Street, Osu, Accra
0302 761 1974 or 0302 761 1977
Medical Imaging Ghana Ltd (Same premises as MedLab Ghana)
17 Ridge Road, Roman Ridge, Accra
0302 784 777 or 0302 784 771
There is another branch in Kumasi.

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