Breast cancer is the commonest form of cancer that affects women and the most frequent cause of death of women in developing climes.
It was this knowledge and the understanding of the severity of the condition that inspired the initiative tagged Breast Screening Drive. It was co-organized by the Ilorin University Medical Student Association (ILUMSA) and Pharmaceutical Students Association of Nigeria (PANS UIL), in partnership with Quinta Health, a non-profit focused on delivering heavily subsidized essential medical screening.
The event which took place on Saturday, 4th December 2021 at the Faculty of Pharmacy offered comprehensive health education, clinical and screening with a Breast-I device, vitals measurement, and one-on-one consultation with a doctor. The largely female organizing team provided an ambient and safe avenue for young ladies to ask pressing questions and receive satisfactory answers.
“Breast screenings are considered sensitive so we wanted to create a familiar atmosphere for participants to share comfortably,” one of the co-organizers and pharmaceutical student, Mubarakah Aroyehun stated.
“The event was open to just women, as it is rare to find a man with a lump in these parts.”
With a global burden of 2.3 million cases in 2020, breast cancer is a major public health concern. In 2018 alone, nearly 116,000 cases were recorded in Nigeria and over 70,000 deaths occurred as a result; 61% of diagnosed women died from it.
There is no definitive treatment for the cancer, instead a combination of therapeutic approaches are available awith variable survival rate. These treatment options are often too expensive for people who pay out-of-pocket, thereby making the diagnosis an outright death sentence for the majority.
For this reason, strict avoidance of risk factors and early detection remains the safest option. A 6-month interval is usually recommended between consecutive screenings to enable the testing devices to catch lumps in their infancy.
On periodic screening, Dr. Tunde Adewumi who founded Quinta Health during his NYSC days said,”we discovered breast cancer in a woman pretty early and she’s currently in her second phase of treatment with considerable improvement.”
“The journey has not been easy but she is currently doing well,” he added.
Although older women are more at risk of developing the disease, latest findings are proving that incompletely true. New statistics are beginning to show a downward age trend incidence of breast cancers toward women in their early twenties.
‘’During my housejob training, I was involved in the management of some young women with breast cancers,” Dr. Rita Alabi of Quinta Health shared.
“They were all between ages 24 and 26. One of them even died from heart complications before we could commence chemotherapy.”
“If we are starting to notice the incidence in younger people, it then underscores the importance of screening and early detection.”
Self-examination was one of the key points addressed during the health education session. Participants were encouraged to be more observant of their bodies and accustom themselves to their normal, as this will enable them to immediately detect the slightest abnormality.
Dr. Ayomikun, another medical personnel at Quinta Health, anchored this session and enjoined women to avail themselves for necessary screenings which could help them rule out cancer. In her words, “if you look around, you will know at least one person that is battling or has battled breast cancer. It’s that common”
“Go out for screenings, learn how to examine yourself, when to, and what to look out for.”
This is not the first time either ILUMSA or PANS will be actively educating the public on breast cancer; for them, it has become a yearly exercise.
In October, as part of continued effort towards breast cancer awareness, ILUMSAites and representatives from Quinta health went on air at Unilorin FM to engage listeners with the occurrence and presentation of the disease. PANS, on the other hand, carried out an online campaign across all their social media platforms.
Faridat Musa, a medical student and co-organizer of the event, reasurred that this program will not be the last of its kind.
“We will continue to educate and screen as many women who reach out to us. However, for now, a total of 40 women are now aware of their breast status through our program and I believe that is good for a start.”