Breast Cancer: Pink October Roots For Early Screening

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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The Diabetes Walk: Rwandans Warned on diet, exercise, alcohol

Rwanda NCDs stakeholders during celebrations to mark the Global Diabetes Day

On 14th November, 2021, Rwanda NCD Alliance joined the rest of the world to mark the World Diabetes Day under the theme: “Access to Diabetes Care.

The Global Diabetes Walk is an annual global diabetes awareness-raising campaign that takes place every November. It was established by the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) to involve Civil Society Organizations worldwide in the commemoration of the World Diabetes Day.

The event brought together other CSOs such as Rwanda Diabetes Association (RDA), Lions Club Kigali, and a delegate from the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF), Ms. Nathalie Bille.

The Global Diabetes Walk was organised concurrently with the National Cross-country Championship competitions managed by the Rwanda Athletics Federation (RAF).

At the end of the walk, the Director of the Rwanda Diabetes Association (RDA), Etienne Uwingabire, joined the stage where awards were presented to cross country championship competition winners and delivered a message of the day. He took off time to warn Rwandans against diabetes.

 “We are encouraging everyone to be physically active due to the fact that walking and participating in physical activities at large are the common and affordable preventive majors against diabetes. Additionally, maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, and quitting/avoiding tobacco smoking are all beneficial in the fight against diabetes and other NCDs. On the other hand, for people living with diabetes, being physically active makes the body more sensitive to insulin, which helps in diabetes management. Physical activity also lowers the risk of heart disease and nerve damage by helping to control blood sugar levels. Walking with us today, allowed individuals, friends and others to take care of themselves while also raising awareness about the importance of diabetes prevention and care,” he said.

The events marked the climax of a successful week-long public awareness campaign on Diabetes planned for diabetes awareness, education and advocacy in Rwanda.

Some of the activities included; consultations with people living with diabetes, assistance to newspapers in featuring diabetes in their November outputs, diabetes awareness and screening in secondary schools, radio and television appearances for NCD Advocates and people living with diabetes.

The good news is that some NCDs services have been decentralised to health centres level. In line with the theme – “access to diabetes care” – the Rwanda NCD Alliance mobilised the general population to reach out to the nearest health facility to be checked for diabetes and other NCDs.

Rwanda NCD Alliance also participated in award-giving ceremonies. The Alliance provided branded T-shirts with a blue cycle (universal symbol for diabetes) and a Global diabetes walk message similar to those worn by global diabetes participants.

Burden of diabetes

Today, diabetes affects over 422 million people worldwide. If no preventive measures are taken, that figure could rise to 578 million by 2030. Majority of the people living with this condition suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which is often preventable. Diabetes affects four out of every five people in low- and middle-income countries.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or when the body fails to use the insulin produced as effectively as it should. Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is a common side effect of uncontrolled diabetes, and it can cause serious damage to many of the body’s systems, particularly the nerves and blood vessels, over time. Diabetes leads to blindness, renal failure, heart attacks, stroke, and amputation of lower limbs.

Diabetes can be treated and its consequences avoided or deferred through diet, exercises, medication, and regular screening and treatment for complications.

  • Diabetes is classified into three major types: Type 1 (the body attacks itself by mistake, preventing the body from producing insulin)
  • Type 2 (the body does not use insulin well and cannot maintain normal blood sugar levels)
  • Gestational Diabetes, which develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes

Despite the fact that insulin was discovered 100 years ago, millions of people living with diabetes around the world still do not have access to the care they require. Insulin is the medicine/therapy used in the treatment of diabetes. People living with diabetes require continuous care and support in order to manage their condition and avoid complications.

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