Mrs. Akeredolu goes pink for breast cancer in Nigeria

Founder, BRECAN and First Lady of Ondo State, Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu (with flag) flanked by the Deputy Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Iroji Ogundeji and other participants during the Jog for Life in Akure.

In the last 30 years, cancer has become the deadliest non-communicable disease responsible for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

In Nigeria, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer and the number of women living with and dying from it has continued to rise over the years.

Wife of Ondo State governor, Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, battled breast cancer and successfully overcame it 20 years ago, prompting her to begin a new journey, not just as a survivor, but also as a beacon of hope and an advocate against the disease.

This journey, known as the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and held a symposium to celebrate its commitment to the fight and educate the public on what needs to be done to eradicate it.

The four-day event, with the theme, ‘Prioritizing Breast Cancer Survival in Nigeria,’ held last month at International Events Centre Dome, Akure, gathered over 3,000 participants and international experts in the health sector, just as Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to also bring awareness to women and girls in the state.

It also provided a platform for international and local experts and stakeholders to discuss the disease and proffer preventive measures.

While declaring the event open, Mrs. Akeredolu said apart from battling with misconceptions regarding the disease, funding treatment remains an issue; hence, the idea to mobilise one million citizens of the state to donate at least N200, with a set target of N200million to enable cancer patients commence treatment at the hospitals.

Very determined and zealous, she told everyone that though cancer is dreaded, it can be defeated if the right thing is done at the right time.

She disclosed that cancer treatment is expensive and most Nigerians cannot afford it and so resort to seeking care from unorthodox sources, such as prayer houses, Prayer Mountains and herbalists.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, while welcoming guests, stated that he believed strongly in BRECAN’s advocacy and promised to establish a breast cancer management centre to support the fight against the disease.

He stressed that all hands must be on deck in the fight and urged the public to support the awareness campaign.

Vice-Chancellor of University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, Prof Friday Okonofua, in his paper, titled, ‘Attitudes Towards Breast Cancer In Nigeria, The Way Forward,’ decried the increasing number of deaths from breast cancer in the country.

He said though the exact causes of breast cancer are still not fully known, early detection and treatment can substantially increase the number of survivors.

Okonofua commended the efforts of BRECAN in creating awareness and championing the cause of breast cancer prevention and treatment in Nigeria over the last two decades.

He suggested that specific measures, such as providing evidence-based information to women in need of breast cancer prevention services and supply of qualitative prevention and treatment services would be critical in reducing the burden of the disease and deaths in Nigeria.

“The number of persons who may have been reached and who have benefited directly or indirectly from the messages of BRECAN may never be accurately known, but there is no doubt that this organisation has stamped its footprints in the sands of time and has provided a critical benchmark with which best performing organisations in health and social development will be measured in this country for many years to come,” he stated.

Present at the occasion were wife of Kebbi State governor, Dr. Zainab Bagudu, and her Kwara State counterpart, Mrs. Omolewa Ahmed, with Olumide Aladesuru, Kingsley Ndoh, Kristen Isabel, Sasha Stanton, Oyinade Amodu, Margaret Isabona, Olaniyi Johnson, Okunnuga Ndidi, as speakers, amongst others.

During the weeklong event, Mrs. Akeredolu, the attendees and other advocates took the awareness campaign to the state House of Assembly to persuade members to come up with a law on its control and the establishment of a treatment centre in the state.

During the interactive session with members of BRECAN on the floor of the House in Akure, Deputy Speaker, Ogundeji Iroju, on behalf of the Speaker, Bamidele Oleyelogun, assured that the Assembly would do all within its power to ensure the battle against breast cancer was won, promising to give accelerated passage to the proposed Bill.

In her response, Mrs. Akeredolu thanked the legislators for their support and urged them to hasten the passage of the Bill, noting that without the efforts and collaboration of all arms of government and members of society, the fight against the disease would continue to be an uphill battle.

The final day of the event witnessed a walk on the streets of Akure, tagged ‘Jog for Life,’ which kicked off at 7a.m. from NEPA Neighbourhood Market to Arcade Ground on Igbatoro Road, with participation by RECAN members, survivors, supporters, government officials, women groups and residents.

The grand finale was a fundraising dinner held at the Smoking Hills Golf Resort, Ilara-Mokin, where Mrs. Akeredolu urged well-meaning individuals to partner in the fight, saying no effort is too little in the fight against the disease.

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