Women diagnosed with breast cancer should not allow men to stand in their way of treatment, the Head of Breast Care Unit at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Florence Dedey, has advised.
In an interview with the Ghanaian Times on Friday, Dr Dedey noted that while some men were supportive of their partners in such circumstances others were very unhelpful, a situation that discouraged most women from undergoing effective treatment.
"Some decide that because their husbands do not support them, they won't have treatment. They abandon it and as the disease progresses they die. We see a lot of such cases".
"Is it really worth losing your life because of a man who is going to marry as soon as you are gone? I think women should be more proactive and should take their own destiny into their hands," she said.
"As much as possible get your husband to agree with you but if he does not, do not allow him to be a stumbling block to your treatment," the general surgeon counselled.
Allaying fears and myths about the disease, particularly on the removal of the breast, Dr Dedey indicated that treatments including radiotherapy, surgery, chemotherapy and mastectomy are only recommended depending on the stage of the lump detected in the breast.
"It is not true that once you are diagnosed of breast cancer, your breast will be cut. People know of mastectomy which is the taking off of the whole breast but that is only necessary when the cancer is quite big and that is why we insist on early detection because when it's small, we can pick the lump and leave the rest of the breast," she noted.
According to her, "a 5cm cut off point" is used to determine whether to take off the breast or otherwise "but at times the lump is smaller and the patients breast is so small so by the time you take it out there isn't much left."
"However, there is the option of plastic surgery where a new breast can be created for you from your own tissues or an artificial implant. What people don't think about is what happens if the breast is not cut off.
"It is for a very good reason we do that if not, the cancer may spread; for some it breaks unto the skin, others causes big nasty sores, affect the brain, lungs etc and lead to death. So the question is between your breast and your life, which one is more important?" she wondered.
The Head of the Breast Care Unit mentioned factors including being feminine, aged (40 years and above), genetic traits, childlessness, long menstrual cycle among other non-modifiable factor that exposed women to the disease.
"There is also the issue of lifestyle; being obese, alcohol intake, smoking etc that are risk factors for the disease and I advise that as much as possible we need to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, cut down alcohol and other negative practices to reduce the chances of breast cancer," she urged.
Dr Dedey while commending government for up-scaling breast cancer drugs on the National Health Insurance Scheme appealed that more steps are taken to bridge the financial gaps in accessing treatment.
"Let us make the service more accessible; currently we have only three radiotherapy centres across the country and that discourages people from going for treatment looking at distances they have to cover so we need to look at how to make the service friendlier for people while making sure that logistics and medicines are made available," she stated,
She further urged women to conduct self-examinations of the breast regularly, "those above 40 must do mammogram at least once a year and we must all join the noise to reduce breast cancer. People have survived it and you too can."
Breast cancer forms in the cells of the breasts with signs including lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, inverted nipple and a red or scaly patch of the skin among others.