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Health | Nov 1, 2004

Breast Cancer On The Rise

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Available data at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital indicate that there are currently 24,574 women infected with 23 different types of breast cancer in the country.The data also show that the prevalence rate of the disease in the country at the moment is 0.67 per cent.

Korle-Bu alone recorded 300 new cases in 2002, as against 35 in 1977, showing a seven-per cent increase in the disease in 25 years.A consultant medical pathologist with Mammocare Ghana, Mr Frank N. Ghartey (Jnr),who made this known at a seminar on breast cancer, advised women living with the disease not to resist surgery, since the cancer would definitely eat away their breasts.

The seminar was organised by the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC), in collaboration with the National Council on Women and Development (NCWD), in Accra at the weekend.“It would be more prudent if the tissues in the breast are removed through surgery than their being removed by the disease,” he said.

Mr Ghartey said most women diagnosed of having cancer did not want their breasts removed because they saw that as a deformity.He disclosed that when the cancer ate into the flesh, it also caused fungus infections on the breast, with offensive odours, explaining that that was the last stage of the disease.He said it was mostly at that stage that women started seeking surgery, adding that at that stage,it would be too late for any operations to be performed.

Mr Ghartey also cautioned that when one allowed the disease to live in the body, it could also cause cancer of the bones and other parts of the body. He said cancer had been diagnosed to be the fourth leading cause of death in the country, with infections, road accidents and cardiovascular diseases being the first three.

He said unlike the first three causes of death, which are mostly preventable, cancer could not be prevented, but explained that when identified early, it could be managed for one to lead a normal life.The Minster of Women and Children's Affair, Mrs Gladys Asmah, whose speech was read on her behalf advised women to desist from acts that were suspected to be the leading causative factors of cancer, since its exact cause was not known.

She mentioned some of such acts as the consumption of fatty foods, too much exposure to X'rays and keeping objects in one's brassiere.She also called on women to breastfeed their children for longer periods, since, according to her, medical experts had proved that breatfeeding prevents women from disease.

Mrs Asmah said the high incidence of late breast cancers, as a result of inadequate knowledge and early detection, was caused by general ignorance and poverty.She said her ministry was, therefore, empowering women economically so that they could meet their basic needs, such as health, education and the general welfare of their children.

The outgoing acting Executive Director of the NCWD, Mrs Marian Tackie, said that women were more vulnerable to many reproductive health-related diseases.She said that available statistics on gender morbidity and mortality patterns collated by the Disease Control Unit of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital from 1974 to 1994 with respect to various cancers, indicated that 31.4 per cent of females suffered from breast cancer, compared to 1.8 per cent males.

She said 18 per cent females, compared to 6.9 per cent males, suffered from cancer of the urinary bladder, while 1.8 per cent females as against 3.3 per cent males, suffered from cancer of the rectum, with 1.2 per cent females, as against 3.1 males, suffering from cancer of the bone.She said cancers of the cervix and the ovary, which are unique to females alone, constituted 27.1 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively of cancer infections.

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