KWAHU-BORN Dr (Mrs) Beatrice Wiafe Addai is a medical officer who has brought hope to many women and continues to do so through her non-governmental organisation (NGO), Breast Care International (BCI).
Located at Oduom, a suburb of Kumasi, BCI has undertaken various support services for women with breast cancer. But for the NGO, some of these women would have visited their graves long ago.
Indeed, right from her elementary school days, Dr Wiafe-Addai had the vision of becoming a medical doctor but did not know which area she was going to specialise in until she entered medical school.
But when she specialised in breast care management and general breast pathology between 2000 and 2001 both at the Moscow Medical Academy, Russia, the gates opened for her to realise her vision to play a more meaningful role in the nation’s breast care management.
Today, through the ingenuity of Dr Wiafe-Addai and her team of professionals, BCI stands out as perhaps the single most influential NGO on breast care management in the country.
Breast cancer refers to cancers originating from breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk.
The breast is an external symbol of beauty and womanhood, but regrettably breast cancer has been the cause of deaths of millions of women worldwide.
Worldwide, breast cancer comprises 10.4 per cent of all cancers among women, making it the second most common type of non-skin cancer and the fifth most common cause of cancer death.
In 2004, breast cancer caused 519,000 deaths worldwide (seven per cent of cancer deaths; almost one per cent of all deaths). Breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than in men, but survival rates are equal in both sexes.
Breast cancer affects a relatively young population in Ghana; girls as young as 16 have been diagnosed with the disease. The survival rate of breast cancer patients in Ghana has not been long compared to the developed countries.
It was against this backdrop that Dr Wiafe-Addai conceived the BCI idea and eventually spearheaded its formation in October, 2002.
The preamble of the BCI says it is an NGO dedicated to the establishment of breast cancer awareness centres throughout the country; to create breast cancer awareness among Ghanaian women, especially the rural women, since they form the majority; educate women on the existence of breast cancer; undertake screening exercises, diagnosis, counselling, treatment, rehabilitation, as well as research into the various breast pathologies, especially breast cancer in Ghana.
Over the period, the BCI has established six centres all of which are playing various roles in the smooth operations of the organisation.
One of them is the Sensitisation Centre, which is responsible for education and lectures about breast cancer and other breast pathologies. It also puts emphasis on the importance and the right way to do self-examination of the breast.
There is also the Clinical Examination Centre, which takes charge of the clinical examination of the breasts of women and all women who detect any breast pathology are scheduled to meet the specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Data gathered from the screening centre are stored at a data bank for further analysis and serious scientific research.
The Mammography Centre takes X-ray pictures of the breast as requested by the team members; women without symptoms but are eligible are encouraged to undertake mammogram. Those diagnosed with any pathologies or suspected of having breast cancer are advised to undertake mammography for diagnosis purposes.
Besides the above, there is also the Treatment Centre, which deals with all cases detected at the clinical examination centre. Here the accurate preoperative diagnosis and treatment plan with patient participation and on individual basis are established.
Last but not the least is the Counselling Centre, which provides advice to dispel any myth about breast cancer. Diagnosis of breast cancer is immediately followed by series of counselling to encourage affected women to brave the storm and undergo the necessary treatment on individual basis and in confidence. Sometimes survivors are invited to help in the counselling of newly diagnosed patients.
In a bid to achieve its aims, BCI has undertaken mobile screening trips to workplaces and markets, towns and villages, which have benefited hundreds of women.
The management and staff of BCI have also undertaken clinical diagnosis and used mammography and fine needle aspiration biopsy of breast masses as diagnostic tools to establish the correct morphological diagnosis especially in the preoperative period.
All these have been made possible through a well-organised management body under the able leadership of Dr Wiafe-Addai, a general surgeon and specialist in Breast Pathology with professional experience of over 19 years.
She has a rich educational and professional background among them is Ph.D. (General Surgery), 1998–2001, Moscow Medical Academy, Russia; Specialisation in General Surgery, from 1999 to 2001, 23rd Surgical Teaching Hospital, Moscow; Specialisation in Breast Cancer Management, from 2000 to 2001, Moscow Medical Academy, Russia; Specialisation in General Breast Pathology in 2001 at the Moscow Medical Academy, Russia.
Others are Mammology Centre – Taganskaya, Moscow; Specialisation in Ultrasonography and Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy at the 61st Medical Institute in Moscow, Russia in 2000, and Specialisation in Oncology at the Oncology Research Centre in Kashirskaya, Moscow, Russia from 2000 to 2001.
Dr Wiafe-Addai was a resident surgeon at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital between 1994 and 1999; Medical Officer, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Department of Medicine, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital from 1992 to 1994.
She had her secondary school education at the Mpraeso Secondary School from 1972 to 1977 where she obtained the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level and GCE ‘A’ Level Certificate from 1977 to 1979 at the Ofori Panin Secondary School before proceeding to the State Medical Institute, Ukraine in the USSR for her MD, Medicine between 1982 and 1989.
Her membership of professional bodies include Ghana Medical Association, Surgical Society of Moscow and Russia, Soviet Trained Graduates Association, International Federation of University Women (IFUW), National Consultative Committee on Cancer Control in Ghana – subcommittee on Breast Cancer (July, 2008).
Among Dr Wiafe-Addai’s monographs and research papers are Principles of Surgery, Moscow in 2000; Breast Conservation Surgery in Early Stage Breast Cancer in 2001; Preoperative Morphological Diagnosis of Nodular Goitre in Moscow, 2001; Breast Cancer Among Ghanaian Women - Perception and Experience, Accra in 2005, and Ethics and Deontology in Medical/Surgical Practice, Kumasi, Ghana in 2002.
Other members of the management team of BCI include chemical pathologists, well-trained nurses in breast examination and vexed in other breast pathologies, and other supporting staff.