Media Feature: This Nigerian Cancer Intervention Charity Is Out To Prevent and Detect Cancer Early
Not too long ago, our Executive Director, Tolulope Falowo sat down with #MoreBranches to talk about our work, the challenges we encounter during its course and our future projects.
MoreBranches: "Can you give us a quick introduction of yourself and organisation CancerAware Nigeria?"
CancerAware: "My name is Tolulope Falowo. I am the founder and Executive Director of CancerAware Nigeria – a cancer intervention charity in Lagos with a focus on the prevention and early detection of cancer. Our mission is simple, yet bold – to reduce the rising cancer incidence in Nigeria, especially among women, through education, advocacy and patient support. We focus primarily on breast and cervical cancer as they have the highest incidence in Nigeria."
MoreBranches: Your organisation carries out awareness campaigns on the myths and misconceptions about cancer
What are the most problematic rhetorics you have come across in your campaign of education?"
CancerAware: "During the course of our work, one of the things that has become quite apparent is the lack of accurate and factual information about cancer among the populace. Irrespective of educational background, knowledge or exposure, the reality is that majority of Nigerians have little or no knowledge about cancer, its causes, risk factors, e.t.c.. Also, there are many myths and misconceptions about cancer, especially breast and cervical cancer. One of the most common misconceptions is that cancer is a death sentence. This is very untrue. Some cancers can be prevented and many cancers can be effectively cured especially if detected early. More and more people are surviving cancer today due in part to early detection and advancement in treatment techniques. For cervical cancer, many individuals are not aware of its main risk factor which is the human papillomavirus (HPV) and its mode of transmission. We still have a lot of work to do in the area of educating and informing the populace."
MoreBranches: "Your organisation organises free screenings for breast and cervical cancer and is making an impact in underserved communities across Nigeria, what are some of the hurdles you have faced in reaching these communities and effectively educating them?"
CancerAware: "Our community intervention programmes target underserved communities and the aim is to create breast and cervical cancer control models that can be adopted in such communities across Nigeria. It commenced in January 2017 and up till date thousands of women and men have benefitted from the free cancer screening and education outreaches. We work closely with the relevant stakeholders in each community we visit and this helps in ensuring the outreaches are successful. Some of the barriers to the prevention and early detection of cancer in Nigeria and a few of the reasons why many individuals do not take up cancer screening especially in the impoverished communities include poverty, ignorance, socio-cultural beliefs, myths and misconceptions, inadequate referral systems, lack of adequate diagnosis, fear of diagnosis, out-of-pocket payments,inadequately trained frontline community health workers and limited cancer treatment centres."
MoreBranches: "When is your next event and what do you have planned?
CancerAware: "We have a lot of activities planned for the year. We kicked off in January with our #WhatIsHPV 2.0 cervical cancer campaign. Our Breast Cancer Early Detection Programme is also ongoing in addition to our various advocacy campaigns." MoreBranches: "What do you think about the current Nigerian public health sector?"
CancerAware: "As it relates to cancer care in Nigeria, the relevant stakeholders must find the political will to put in place structures and systems that will reduce the cancer burden in the country. A national breast and cervical cancer screening programme will go a long way to reduce the dismal statistics that we have from cancer in Nigeria. This however needs to be complimented with adequate and fully functional cancer treatment centres. There is no point screening for cancer if there are not enough accessible and well equipped treatment centres. Also, more awareness about the most common cancers should be done at the primary health care level. To improve the uptake of cancer screening, trained front line health care professionals are required especially in the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs). There are PHCs in almost every community nationwide and they can be instrumental in educating and creating awareness on the prevention and early detection of cancer."
MoreBranches: "What are some improvements you are looking to see in the coming future?"
CancerAware: "More effort needs to be put into fixing our health sector. There needs to better collaboration and synergy among the Government, private sector and the third sector. Things are beginning to look up in regards to cancer care, for example, the official launch and dissemination of the Nigerian National Cancer Control Plan will take place in this month of April. Also, just recently the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) signed a landmark document approving the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement of a modern Radiotherapy centre at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). This will increase the number of radiotherapy machines in the country and also move the centre towards becoming a Cancer Centre of Excellence."
MoreBranches: "How can people reach, contact and support your organization?"
CancerAware: "We are committed to reducing the cancer incidence in Nigeria, especially among women in underserved and impoverished communities. In addition to our free screening initiatives, we also support no income and low income women diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer. We cover treatment costs and help them through their cancer journey. To support any of our screening or treatment initiatives, kindly email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +2348188046560. You can also make a donation either locally or internationally via our website" This interview was conducted on January 27, 2019 by Akitoye Delano