16 October 2007

Namibia: Keeping Abreast on Health Issues

Windhoek — THE Reach for Recovery Support Group recently took its first ever Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign to hospitals and clinics in northern Namibia.

They held information talks and answered questions from women at eight venues, travelling more than 2 983 km through the Oshana, Omusati and Ohangwena regions to spread the message.

The campaign was led by breast cancer survivor Cheryl Ferreira, Sandra Bailey, a volunteer from Walvis Bay and also a cancer survivor, and Nelao Martin an activist in the HIV-AIDS community.

Martin also doubled up as an Oshiwambo translator.

"The one thing that stood out during our campaign is that Breast Cancer education is non-existent even among qualified matrons ad nurses," said Ferreira.

They discovered that most women in the rural areas had never heard about breast cancer, had never heard about self examination and did not know how to do it; the general understanding of cancer was that once a person was diagnosed with any form of cancer there was no treatment and the person would eventually die.

The women were also told that doctors at hospitals did not take much interest in women with pains in their breasts.

They were given Panados or Brufen to ease the pain and told that they were breastfeeding too much.

Overall, 2 783 woman attended the talks, while 225 women were found to have lumps in their breasts and were referred to their doctors for further examinations and testing.

The women were also informed that not all lumps found were necessarily cancerous and only further tests would determine this.

Ferreira said there was considerable interest amongst women and most could not believe that she and Bailey were breast cancer survivors.

"We had to convince the woman that we were survivors by taking out our protheses and showing them our scars, only then did they believe us and realise that there is life after breast cancer."

Depending on funds, the Reach for Recovery Support Group hopes they can have another awareness campaign next year and maybe also extend it to other parts of the country.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in Namibia and women in rural areas need to be educated and informed.

"There is definitely an urgent need for Government to get involved and realise that cancer is also a disease and that it is curable if detected early enough.

In our opinion, there is definitely a mismatch as far as cancer and other diseases are concerned," said Ferreira.

The Reach for Recovery Support Group consists of a group of volunteers who have all personally experienced breast cancer and its treatment.

They provide emotional and practical support to new patients by providing a temporary prothesis, a list with exercises, a list of where to obtain a more permanent prothesis, a booklet containing come thoughts and information for a woman who has breast cancer.

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