Rwanda: Initiative to Raise Awareness on Breast Cancer Using Smartphone

19 October 2020

The Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA), launched a program dubbed, "One Breast Cancer Smartphone per Village" which aims at distributing smartphones to help raise awareness on breast cancer in Rwandan communities.

According to Philippa Kibugu-Decuir, the founder of BCIEA, through this initiative, they will provide a smartphone to a village ambassador who is trained by BCIEA so that they are able to provide information about breast cancer.

The smartphones have an application installed that was established with all details about breast cancer, how to self-examine breast cancer, and all the necessary information someone would wish to know about this type of cancer.

She said that she has a target of distributing at least 300 smartphones to assist in providing breast cancer information in different communities.

The phones are fitted with an educational application that is both in English and Kinyarwanda and the volunteer ambassadors to be given these phones are medical students that are trained to properly disseminate information on breast cancer mainly during communal activities like Umuganda and Umugoroba w'Ababyeyi period.

Kibugu-Decuir urged Members of Parliament and other policymakers to legislate policies that support cancer patients and survivors and their families, saying that cancer is an expensive devastating disease yet it affects all aspects of life.

She noted that although Rwanda has universal health insurance coverage, the treatment and medications are so expensive that the most vulnerable can't afford it.

For example, she said that 10 percent of the cost of radiation Rwf1.8 million is Rwf108,000 which is out of reach for many.

"The government of Rwanda has made tremendous progress with Butaro Cancer Centre and Rwanda Cancer Centre (at Rwanda Military Hospital) and several hospitals that patients no longer need to travel abroad for treatment, but a lot still has to be done," she said.

Melisa Kabanyana Muvunyi, a student of Rwamagana Leaders' School noted that her role is to spread awareness of breast cancer which is why she and other youth are going to form clubs that will spread the message regarding breast cancer beyond their own school.

According to Dr. Polyphile Ntihinyurwa, a gynecologist at University Teaching Hospitals of Kigali and Huye, mostly, the early signs of breast cancer do not get easily noticed due to lack of pain, which is why regular self-examination is advised.

He explained that one's hands are enough to detect some signs, like masses, irregularities in the breast, or something unusual, and in some cases, one may notice bloody discharges out of the nipple or discoloration of the breast.

In advanced cases of breast cancer, wounds can even burst out of the skin of the breast, Ntihinyurwa stated.

Many people seek medical care when they feel pain or sick, which is very risky as they may lose their breasts because cancer cells could have grown and spread deeper.

Ntihinyurwa noted that knowing whether one is sick or not is the first step that should be taken. A person can live a happier life knowing that they don't have the disease rather than living a life of doubting whether they are sick or not.

However, he called upon men to be supportive when they notice that their women have breast cancer.

He also stressed that cancer can heal though not all types of cancer, but early detection is the best treatment.

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