Socio-economic factors and social taboos on breast cancer in west african communities
In order to carry successfully our mission which is to empower, educate and eradicate breast cancer in West Africa it highly important to highlight the social factors (behaviors, attitudes and believes) that underline African's society, affect and influence Africans views of diseases, precisely breast cancer.
Some of these social behaviors and attitudes are reported by Samuel Yaw Opoku, Martin Benwell and Joel Yarney in the responses they gathered from the interviews with breast cancer patients, herbalists and the Consultants to highlight the socio-economic factors affecting breast cancer in Ghana in their study about breast cancer in two towns in Ghana (West Africa).
Here are few of their findings :
- “I am paying for the treatment with money from my children and some donations from my Church...my children would not allow me to go for herbal treatment”- Patient
- “The cost of treatment and screening is very expensive and therefore a lot of women cannot afford; then it would be helpful if centers were opened where women can walk in for a mammogram for a small fee especially for the low-income earners”- Patient
- “The treatment has brought a very serious financial burden to my family and my husband had to take a loan to supplement family resources but that was not even enough to pay for the full cost of treatment” - Patient
- “The Government should consider subsidizing the cost of treating the disease because a lot of women in Ghana die of the disease because they could not afford to pay for the high cost of treatment” - Consultant
- “You see the breasts are very important to every woman without which, a woman is never complete and no man would be happy to marry a woman whose breast is removed and I would prefer to die than to live without my breasts” - Patient
- “God's intervention is the only means that protection from the disease could be achieved. Whatever is said in the Bible would come to pass and the fact that scientists have not been able to come out with the actual causes of the disease points to the spiritual nature of the disease” - Patient
- “Cancer is “Obosam disease” (devil's disease) and for which reason doctors are unable to treat the disease” - Herbalist
- “Cancer is a supernatural disease and can only be treated by spiritual powers but not by doctors in the hospitals” - Herbalist
- “Some believe it is an act of God, a family disease, an act of the devil or a curse; others people see the disease as someone's fault” - Consultant
- “Another problem is the fear of removal of the breasts which has several social and marriage implications with the husbands and which prevents the women from reporting to the hospitals” - Consultant
- “Many women cannot afford the cost of mammogram in Ghana which is about 400,000 in Private Health Institutions and around 250,000 in Public Health Institutions, considering the fact that the average basic salary is about 500,000 a month” - Consultant
As it could be seen, financial constraint was described as a major obstacle to accessing health care in general and breast cancer care in particular. This conclusion was drawn from the reported difficulty encountered by many of the respondents in paying for the cost of care and which was also corroborated by the Consultants. As noted that attitude towards breast cancer and breast screening practices among the respondents varied including fear, denial and guilt.