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Breast Cancer on the Rise Among African Women, Say Experts

A breast cancer patient undergoes a mammography examination (file photo).
A breast cancer patient undergoes a mammography examination (file photo).

Breast Cancer originates from breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts. While the disease can become deadly, it can be treated if detected early.

A breast cancer advocate says African women are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the disease. Ify Nwabukwu is the Founder of the Washington-based African Women Cancer Awareness Association.

“Breast cancer currently is presenting very early among African women here and back home in Africa,” she says. “The disease is more aggressive in Africans than any other group.”

For years, breast cancer was thought of as a disease of the developed world. But health experts say incidence of the disease is increasing in the developing world. The World Health Organization attributes this to an increase in urbanization, adoption of western lifestyles and longer life expectancies.

Dr. Clement Edusa serves in the Department of Radiotherapy at Korle-Bu Hospital in Accra, Ghana. He says cultural traditions often discourage African women from seeking appropriate care.

"Unfortunately here, the first place of call is either your pastor in church who would send you to a prayer camp, work you off, two, three weeks before they send you to the hospital,” he says. “Most times, the traditional healers give herbal concoctions which don't work, delaying the process of treatment."

Cost is another challenge facing African women with breast cancer. The bill for chemotherapy and associated treatment adds up to thousands of dollars, which many cannot afford. Experts say while breast cancer is decreasing in developed countries, it is on the rise in low and middle income countries.