Rwanda NCDs stakeholders at the launch of PLWNCDs

Experts stress ‘Love Yourself (IKUNDE),’ ‘Know Yourself (IMENYE),’ ‘Get Checked (ISUZUMISHE)’ as effective breast cancer control measures

Breast Cancer is a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD). According to Rwanda Cancer Registry, Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women.

Globally, breast cancer accounts for one in four cancer cases. In 2020, there were about 684,996 deaths from breast cancer.

When breast cancer is detected early, the survival rate is very high because treatment is available. Unfortunately, 50% – 80% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage in many low-and middle-income countries. This increases the cost of treatment and makes it usually incurable.

To amplify the message of saving lives from breast cancer, October is celebrated as a National Breast Cancer month where people from all over the world recognise the seriousness of this condition and show their support for patients affected by breast cancer.

In solidarity with this cause, Rwanda NCD Alliance joined Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA) and launched the Breast Cancer Awareness Month on 7th October, 2021 at the Pink and Wellness House. The event was graced by a group of People Living with NCDs, Breast Cancer Survivors, and other partners.

In her address, Phillipa Kibugu Decuir, the founder of Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa, noted with concern that many women are unaware of breast cancer until it becomes fatal. “Many women do not have any clue about breast cancer till it becomes deadly. They must be rescued, educated, and empowered to take charge of their health. They must become aware of the importance of early detection as it saves lives. Knowledge is power,” she said.

She reminded participants of the three critical elements in breast cancer prevention that everyone should be familiar with and prioritise in order to live a healthy lifestyle: “Love Yourself (IKUNDE), Know Yourself (IMENYE), Get Checked (ISUZUMISHE).”

She also appealed to Rwandans to embrace the Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa’s innovative approach to raising breast cancer awareness countrywide. “We are challenging all stakeholders and institutions to place our giant 180x90cm Pink Ribbon Symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness in their respective workplaces, where it will be visible to employees and customers. This challenge aims to have 50% (or more) of Rwandans aware of breast cancer and the importance of early detection by October 2022. The Pink Ribbon is the Breast Cancer symbol, and it reminds us that early detection saves lives,” she remarked.

In the same spirit, Nyarurenzi Health Centre in the City of Kigali, on 13th October 2021, launched the Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Cervical Cancer Screening Campaign. The event under the theme, Get screened early for cervical and breast cancer; they are treatable and curable, involved the Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre and partners including Rwanda NCD Alliance, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Partners In Health (PIH/IMB), International Cancer Institute (ICI), Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA), healthcare professionals, community health workers, and local leaders from the district level. During the event, people with lived experiences of breast cancer took part in awareness activities and mobilised a number of people to participate in the campaign, especially for voluntary breast cancer and cervical cancer screening for early detection.

Courtesy of the consultative engagements by Our Views, Our Voices Initiative that have been undertaken, people living with breast cancer shared their lived experiences. Majority of them emphasised that breast cancer is typically detected at a late stage, necessitating breast surgery. As a result, they advocated for the decentralisation of breast cancer screening services at the health centre level in order to improve early detection.  They highlighted that some healthcare professionals are no longer performing palpation to detect breast tumours. They advocated for a healthcare system with well-trained healthcare personnel who provide equitable services.

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