Akeredolu urges inclusion of breast cancer treatment in NHIS, plans specialist centre for Ondo
Worried by the alarming rate of breast cancer among women and the dearth of relevant equipment for treatment in the country, wife of Ondo State governor, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu has announced plans for the establishment of a specialist centre in Ondo state to treat victims of the scourge in Nigeria. Anyanwu-Akeredolu made the declaration recently at media briefing held at Cromwell Hotel, GRA Ikeja, Lagos, to announce the launch of the Lagos Chapter of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN).
The first lady who founded the organization twenty years ago said the centre would be the highlight of BRECAN’s efforts to draw awareness to the ravage of the disease among women and the delivery of quality care for victims in the country. She said: “ We are driving it, but when it comes to implementation, it is what government can do. It is not easy. A radiotherapy machine is about #1. 5 billion… For some of us that money may seem so much but we know through reading the newspaper the amount of money some Nigerians are stashing away in developed countries. So I do not think it is a huge money for the government to bring out”. She also decried the non-inclusion of cancer care in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) wondering how government could have decided to remove such a life-threatening disease from its arrangement with health service providers. The first lady vowed BRECAN would continue to push until breast cancer treatment is included in the programme.
She however condemned the Federal Government and Nigerians for their nonchalant attitude towards the plights of women battling with breast cancer pointing out that nobody is asking questions about combating this health issue in the country.
Speaking about the dysfunctional state of the country’s health care system, Anyanwu-Akeredolu said the government and the society have failed the people pointing out the poor state of health facilities in the country and the negligible support breast cancer patients received from the government.
She said: “ You can not explain how in a country of about 200 million people, we have seven Chemotherapy centres and the machines are not working. What are you telling women suffering from breast cancer to do? That they should go and die?”
According to her, women who could afford the treatment get to the hospital only to discover the machines is either not there or it is not even working.
Stressing that cancer care issue has overwhelmed the Federal Government, Anyanwu-Akeredolu charged states government in the country to step up and compliment it efforts.
She said: “Let state undertake that, it is your own people you are taking care of. Budget money for cancer care and control.” She said if this is done Nigerians would begin to see improvement in the survival rate of cancer patients in respective states.
While speaking on the need to create awareness in Nigeria, she lamented that statistics indicated mammography test in the country among women is so abysmally low saying this is because many do not understand its necessity.
Anyanwu-Akeredolu however noted that it is a natural inclination to go for a mammogram test when a woman is forty years of age. She said: “That is what is obtained in other climes. Immediate you are forty, you start being barraged with reminders to go for your mammo. These are where people care for the lives of their populace. But that is not what is obtainable here. A little equipment could be damaged in a radio therapy machine at a teaching hospital, that machine would lie there for next two years.”
Anyanwu-Akeredolu however warned that breast cancer is not limited to women alone saying small percentage of men also suffer from the disease.
Wondering what support pharmacetical companies in the country offer cancer victims, the first lady challenged them to rise up to the occasion and make meaningful contribution to the sector health.
Advising those suffering from breast cancer to focus on those things that give them joy and not dwell on their pain while seeking medical solutions, the first lady also called on Nigerians to stop attributing every ailment besetting them to spiritual forces.
At the event, a breast cancer survivor, Mrs. Nurat Salman who was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 29 while taking care of an eighteen-month baby said a foundation discouraged her from seeking treatment telling her there is no hope.
Saying she finished her treatment in February, Salman noted that though a very painful journey cancer is not a death sentence and does not kill but it is depression that could lead to death for people.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Chairperson, Lagos BRECAN, Mrs. Vivian Okorie said the organization was founded by the first lady with the mission of eliminating breast cancer as a life threatening disease in Nigeria through public Education, patient support, advocacy and research.
She said the official launch of the Lagos branch is slated for 16,, September, 2017. Okorie stated that what kills most women is not the disease but the lack of awareness and support for them during this period of distress.
According to her, creating awareness and advocacy especially in a metropolitan state like Lagos would go a long way in curbing ignorant and its effects among women.
She advocated for affordable screening and treatment for women saying this would encourage them o go for routine check-up that may lead to early detection and ultimately reduce death rate due to cancer.
In her remark, the National President of BRECAN, Mrs. Juliet Ogbogu said the organization presence is being felt through clubs throughout the country and beyond.
She details efforts and activities by the organization to create awareness about breast cancer in the country saying they provide a lounge for victims in Ibadan to stay while receiving treatment at University College Ibadan (UCH)