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April 14, 2024
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UWOCASO Marks pink October with breast cancer survivors

While Marking this year’s October breast cancer awareness month, the Uganda women’s Cancer Support Organisation (UWOCASO) has come out to express its gratitude to the breast cancer survivors, patients and their families, advocates, volunteers, doctors and nurses in cancer care as well as government and its agencies who worked hard throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to WHO 2018 fact sheet, Cancer is the leading cause of death globally, approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries. The worldwide burden of cancer is substantial and growing. More than one in six deaths globally are due to cancer, with 19 million new cancer cases and 10 million new cancer deaths in 2020(Global cancer observatory: https://gco.iarc.fr/today

Globalcan2020 reports that breast cancer became the commonest cancer in 2020 globally with 2.3million new cases and 685,000 death. The report also shows that there were 7.8million people diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5years.

In Uganda, breast cancer is the 3rd commonest cancer with 2,639 new cases and 1,366 death in 2020 (Globalcan2020). Breast cancer accounts for 7.8% of all cancers in the country, commonest among young women aged between 35-45 years at the peak of career development, starting families and maximally contributing to national development.

Despite the growing efforts to improve awareness and early detection of breast cancer in Uganda, over 75% of patients present with late disease (stage III or IV) with a 5-year survival rate of 56%. This is attributed to low levels of awareness about risk factors and inadequate capacity and challenges in the health system to detect breast cancer early.

Around 30% of deaths from cancer are due to behavioural and dietary risks: overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use. Other risk factors include age, sex, genetics and environmental factors (exposure to chemicals and fumes) etc.

Late diagnosis was fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic due to a drop in resources to cancer redirecting them to COVID-19 response, as well as enacting necessary measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. In addition, it was difficult for organisations during the lockdowns to maintain life-saving services such as awareness, timely screening and referrals, travels for diagnosis and treatment, providing counselling and palliative care services

On Women’s day March 8th, 2021 Global Advocates (Women with breast cancer) made a call to WHO and its agencies to increase equitable access to breast health information, early detection, timely and quality treatment regardless of where people lived.

Responding to the call, on March 8th, 2021 WHO through the Non-Communicable Disease department and sister agencies ie  International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) plus representatives of global health leaders, launched a 3-pillar Global Breast Cancer Initiative (GBCI) with renewed commitment to reduce global breast cancer death by 2.5% per year till 2040. GBCI will focus on Health promotion for early detection, Timely diagnosis and comprehensive breast cancer management calling member states to take immediate action

In response to WHO’s call to action and previous World Health Assembly(WHA) declarations and resolutions(WHO 2017 Cancer Prevention and Control Resolution),  UWOCASO through the Uganda Cancer Society (UCS) with support from Uganda Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (UNCDA) today joins the rest of the world:

  1. To increase awareness about breast cancer as a global problem that needs collaborative action to promote early detection, timely diagnosis and treatment.
  2. To re-echo WHO call to action, engage, lobby, dialogue with Government and development partners to invest in community health promotion, diagnostic infrastructure (equipment and Human resource), provide quality treatment and survivorship care.
  4. To mobilise partners and institutions to develop joint strategies that embrace innovations emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and rally across the country to support patients and resume prevention services.
  5. To call upon all patients and survivors of cancer and other NCDs to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
  6. Fundraise and mobilise resources for supportive services for cancer patients including but not limited to counselling, patient navigation, accommodation, transportation, artificial breasts, colostomy bags and pain at both hospital and community levels.
  7. To share testimonies of breast cancer survivors and families to restore hope for those in the cancer fight and end stigma.

UWOCASO Board Chairperson, who is also a survivor of breast cancer, Rebecca Kiziri Mayengo called upon different stakeholders to join the organization in the fight against Breast Cancer.

“I, therefore, invite Ministries and their agencies, Uganda Cancer Institute, the Media, Development Partners, Corporate bodies, cancer survivors and patients, well-wishers and the general public to join UWOCASO, Uganda Cancer Society and UNCDA in the fight against cancer in Uganda during the October International breast cancer awareness month.”

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