From Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi
FOR many years people have perceived breast cancer as a dreadful disease associated with myths. But Dr (Mrs) Beatrice Wiafe-Addai says this notion must be attacked with all seriousness to bring hope to people who suffer from the disease.
From a humble beginning nine years ago when Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai began the fight against breast cancer, she has waged a crusade in towns, villages and indeed the remotest parts of the country that has brought hope to may women who suffered from this dreadful disease.
The desire to keep her vision on course has resulted in the organisation she presides over, the Breast Care International (BCI), screening about 150,000 women of the disease, many of who would have died out of ignorance.
She has been leading her group on weekends mostly on Sundays where most women could be reached after the exhaustive week days to embark on outreach missions for women groups, churches, second cycle institutions and tertiary institutions among other groups and those marginalised in the rural areas and deprived communities sometimes at her own expense to educate women against the disease.
“This is one surest way to extricate us from this terrible disease,” she told The Mirror in an interview.
A number of the women have received treatment at the the instance of the BCI and are now living normal lives.
Persistently, Dr Wiafe-Addai has advised women to be conscious of their health by reporting any form of abnormality in any part of their body, especially their breast to medical officers for prompt diagnosis to be made.
This, she says, would reduce any risk of cancerous diseases in their breast to promote healthy lives.
Perhaps, not a single name has become so synonymous with the fight against breast cancer in Ghana than Dr. (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai.
As a private medical practitioner, she could have capitalised on the situation to make huge money as some do but that has never been her motive.
On the contrary, she has mobilised funds through various means to get her organisation in the forefront of a massive public awareness campaign to salvage hundreds of women from the devastating effects of breast cancer and related diseases.
World-wide, breast cancer comprises 10.4 percent of all cancers among women, making it the second most common type of non-skin cancers and the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths.
In 2004, breast cancer caused 519,000 deaths world-wide (about 1 percent of all deaths).
Breast cancer is about 100 times more common in women than in men but the survival rate are equal in both sexes.
It is against this backdrop and others that Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai, through her innovation and preoccupation of developing the infrastructure of breast care advocacy, conceived the idea of establishing BCI to promote breast care awareness in Ghana especially in the remote communities.
“In Ghana, breast cancer affects relatively young populations with some girls as young as 16 years having been diagnosed with the disease,” she said.
According to Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai, the survival rate of the patients has not been long as compared with what pertains in the developed nations.
That is why she said it is very necessary to create the necessary awareness of the disease so that patients can report early for treatment.
“My organisation has poured huge sums of money to undertake public awareness because we believe that the task ahead cannot be left to government alone to accomplish.”
Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai has been going round the world seeking support to undertake this project and so far some successes have been achieved.
“Many women now report early and by God’s Grace and the knowledge he has given me and my team, hundreds of women have been healed of this dreadful disease.”
Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai has had over 20 years experience in the medical profession, which she loves so much and as she puts it, “I love to see people survive diseases especially breast cancer.”
No wonder she has received numerous international and national awards for her singular commitment to quality, leadership, innovation and service to humanity. Her latest international award, The International Star Award for Quality in the Gold Category at the Business Initiative Directions 2010 World Convention in Geneva, has added another significant achievement to her and the organisation she heads, the BCI.
Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai was educated at the Mpraeso Senior High School and the Ofori Panin SHS where she had her Ordinary Level and Advanced Level Certificates in 1977 and 1979 respectively.
Between 1982 and 1989, she studied medicine at the Zaporoshye State Medical Institute, Ukraine-USSR and returned to Ghana to undertake her housemanship at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.
Determined to go further in her chosen profession, Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai specialised in Oncology, breast cancer management, general breast pathology and general surgery all in Moscow.
Indeed she had her PhD (General Surgery) at the Moscow Medical Academy.
Her working experience had seen her work as consultant surgeon at KATH and the SDA Hospital at Agona Asamang, and Consultant Breast surgeon at Nima Highway Specialist Clinic and Mammocare, before entering into private practice by establishing the Peace and Love Hospital at Odoum in Kumasi.
Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai has membership in several professional organisations. They include Ghana Medical Association, Surgical Society of Moscow and Russia, and International Federation of University Women.
As a result of her tenacity of purpose and the will to get the best for needy, she had been invited to speak on several local and international conferences including the 4th Roche Middle East Oncology Conference in Malaysia in 2006, the Scientific Conference of the Kenya Society of Hematology and Oncology in 2006, 6th European Breast Cancer Conference in Berlin in 2008, and the Global race 2009 in Washington USA during which she was honoured with dinner with the US Vice President Joe Biden.
In the coming years, she wants to see more women become aware of breast cancer and be able to detect early signs in order to report early for treatment.
According to her she and her group will move to the churches, women groups, schools and other organisations in the urban and rural communities at their own expense to educate the women on the disease.
Dr (Mrs) Wiafe-Addai is not just attached to her job. She is a family woman happily married to Dr Samuel Addai, an architect by profession and Managing Director of Add Design Group, a project management and consultancy firm in Kumasi.
She is a Christian.