COMMUNIQUÉ FROM THE 3RD INTERNATIONAL BREAST CANCER SYMPOSIUM HOSTED BY THE BREAST CANCER ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (BRECAN) FROM 18TH TO 22ND OCTOBER IN AKURE, ONDO STATE, NIGERIA.
The Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN) held Its 3rd International Symposium on Breast Cancer with the theme “Prioritizing Breast Cancer Survival in Nigeria”. The symposium was convened by the founder of BRECAN, Her Excellency, Arabirin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the First Lady of Ondo State and held from the 18th to 22nd October, 2017 in Akure, Ondo State. The purpose of the symposium was to: provide a platform to present and discuss the most recent trends, practices, concerns and challenges in all aspects of Breast Cancer Care; deliberate and develop a concise working solution to the issues; celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month; and introduce the Ondo State Comprehensive Cancer Initiative.
The five day event brought together breast cancer and global health experts, national and state government officials, the First Ladies of Kwara and Kebbi states, traditional leaders, Non-Governmental Organisations, women groups, breast cancer survivors, youths and students. The opening ceremony had about 3000 people in attendance and Professor Adetiloye representing Prof. Isaac Adewole, the Honourable Minister for Health, as Chairman of the event. Over the course of the program, there were sessions for health practitioners, youths, survivors, women and the general public. Other activities included advocacy training, Free medical checks, a visit to Ondo State legislature, Jog-4-Life, Exhibitions, Tours and a fundraising gala night.
Opening Ceremony/Public Forum: The opening ceremony was held in tandem with the BRECAN 20th Anniversary celebration. It consisted of keynote speeches by health and cancer experts and addresses by Government officials and breast cancer stakeholders.
Key Points includes;
- Dr. Kristen Hopkins of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlighted the data showing the gaps in radiotherapy and cancer management in Africa
- Professor Friday Okonofua, the Vice Chancellor of University of Medical Sciences, Ondo State touched on the attitude of women towards breast cancer and expressed the importance of early detection and how it can become the norm in Nigeria.
- His Excellency, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, the Governor of Ondo State, spoke about the commitment of his administration towards fighting cancer and pledged to begin work on the first state government initiated cancer treatment centre in Nigeria.
- Her Excellency, Arabi nrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the First Lady of Ondo State and Founder of BRECAN delivered the Welcome Address in which she expressed her strong support for Cancer control and introduced a documentary of her personal breast cancer journey.
- Professor Adetiloye, representing the Minister of Health detailed the steps the Federal Government was taking in creating cancer care centres across teaching hospitals in the country.
The symposium featured a Health Professionals Forum, General Forum, Survivor’s Forum, Youth Forum and Women’s Forum. The Health Professionals Forum covered speakers and presentations from cancer and health specialists from around the World, topics included:
- “The Role of Cancer Research & International Collaborations in Breast Cancer Control” by Dr. Kingsley Ndoh
- “Case Study of an International Collaborative Effort” by Dr. Jennifer Dent.
- “Breast Cancer Surgery in Nigeria: The current picture” by Dr. Adewale Adisa.
- “Current Trends in Breast Cancer Prevention and Personalized Breast Cancer Treatment” by Dr. S as ha Staton.
- “Challenges of Radiation Oncology in Nigeria” by Dr. Ndidi Okunuga • “Building Capacity for Radiation Oncology in Low and Middle Income Settings” by Dr. Shilpen Patel
- With Dr. Lekan Olasehinde, Dr. Adewale Adisaand Dr. Ehiosa Charles Okofuo moderating sessions.
The Survivors Forum had Bridgette Hempstead, Funmi Asiegbu and Funmi Oluwagbamila share on the topic “Breast Cancer Journey: My Experience”. There was also a session on The Role of Nutrition in Cancer Survival” by Ms. Oyinade Amodu and “Role of Health professionals in cancer survival”by Dr. Femi Olaleye moderated by Phillipa Decuir.
The Youth Forum had young people from different sectors and those actively involved in breast cancer advocacy engage on the following topics: • “Role of Youths in Civic Participation and Nation Building” was discussed by a panel comprised of Nkemljere, Edem Ossai, and Lola Daniyan. • “Breast Health Awareness” by Dr Janet Ipinyomi • “Breast Cancer Awareness and Advocacy” discussed by a panel comprised of Runcie Chidebe,Yakpe Tsebamand Comfort Akintobi. • The forum was moderated by Mrs. Edem Ossai.
The Women’s Forum the med “Mobilizing Women to Join the Fight against Breast Cancer” was aimed at grassroots women to increase breast health awareness, stop late clinical presentations and wrong perceptions towards breast cancer. There were talks on “Breast Health Awareness” and “The Role of Nutrition in Cancer Prevention” by Dr. Ipinyomi and Ms. Oyinade Amodu respectively. Other topics focused on health seeking behaviours’, healthy lifestyle choices, role of women in community participation, self breast examination, personal development, exercise session and a bonding session presented by the following people Dr. Mrs. Aderonke Fabgemi, Dr. Mrs. Beatrice Egube, Mrs. Titi Adeyemi, Mrs. Modupe Adetula, Mrs. Florence Ogunsina, Mrs. YemiAdeyemo, Mrs. Pamela Elekwachi. The sessions were moderated by Mrs, Folashede Aluko. There was also a General Forum with sessions for the non-medical public with Dr. Aladesuru, Dr. Ogundokun and Dr. Olaniyi, discussing Pathogenesis and prevention of breast cancer and health seeking modalities in victims with this disease during their sessions. Home based and clinical approaches of prevention and the need for more awareness in grass root communities received a lot of emphasis. The sessions were moderated by Her Excellency, Dr. Zainab Bagudu, First Lady of Kebbi State, Dr. Charles Okofuo and Dr. Chuks Etonyeaku
There was also a Joint Session on “Paying for Cancer Treatment in Nigeria”with a panel of Dr. Margaret Isabona speaking on “The Role of Health Insurance in Cancer Care in Nigeria”, Dr. Katungon “Challenges in Managing Cancer Patients in Nigeria”, and Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu on “Crowd funding”. The session was moderated by Dr. Lekan Olasehinde.
Mrs. Betty Anyariwu-Akeredolu led a Workshop on Lobbying and Advocacy and a Visit to Ondo State House of Assembly. She implored the State legislatives on the need for Government to do more to save the lives of women dying from breast cancer. She stated the need for a cancer control plan and a cancer treatment centre in Akure. She ended her speech by stating that BRECAN would be sponsoring a Bill on Cancer Control. Her charge was well received by the Deputy Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Honourable Iroju Ogundeji who lauded the efforts of Mrs. Anyanwu-Akeredolu and promised that the Bill would be given accelerated passage. Free medical checks and clinical breast examinations were made available for conference participants.
The events rounded up with the traditional breast cancer awareness event “Jog-4-Life” which had about 1,000 participants, a Tour to various tourist sites in the state and the Fundraising Gala Night which hosted dignitaries, partners, guests, supporters and members of BRECAN to a relaxing night. The gala night was an expression of gratitude to everyone who made the Symposium a success and for all the work towards eradicating breast cancer. The event was also used to raise funds for the N200rn Crowd funding for Women with Breast Cancer in Ondo State.
The main recommendations and conclusions arising from the sessions are as follows:
• Comments by international guests were positive; they went home with concrete steps in forging positive partnerships. Dr. Kingsley Ndoh assured that the global oncology community was solidly behind the vision for effective cancer control in the state; Dr. Kristen Hopkins reiterated IAEA’s support for cancer control initiatives in Nigeria while Dr. Shilpen Patel showed how securing radiotherapy for Senegal and other countries could be replicated for Nigeria.
• The Message of”Early Detection Saves Lives” should be propagated. All women are advised to practice health seeking behaviours, monthly self-breast examination, exercise., and improve nutrition/lifestyle choices in a bid to fight against unwanted health conditions.
• It was noted that the role of youths in breast cancer awareness and advocacy, community participation and nation building cannot be overemphasized because their experiences will shape the decisions of the future.
• There was need to improve awareness in the community on health insurance and also to come up with innovative financing schemes especially at state level due to limited insurance cover for cancer management especially treatment.
• There was a call for all stakeholders to support the government in funding cancer related programmes and treatment centres due to Inadequate funding of the health sector.
Appreciation We are deeply appreciative to everyone who supported this event in one way or the other. We are grateful for the donations and commitments made and the strides taken. We look forward to more support and collaboration with stakeholders and the Government to ensure that all recommendations and conclusions are implemented in an appropriate and timely manner.
Lilian Adesokan National Public Relations Officer
For: Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN)