Ugandans shun breast cancer testing

With more than 500,00 Ugandans living with cancer without knowing it, the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) has said only one out of three Ugandans have ever tested for breast cancer.

Jackson Orem, Executive Director, UCI said that while almost all adult Ugandans have heard about at least one form of breast cancer, most of them are not willing to get tested for it.

"Almost everyone in the country has lost a loved one from breast cancer but people do not want to get screened or even tested even if some of these services are free of charge," Dr Orem said.

According to the UCI, breast cancer is the third most common cancer in Uganda following prostate cancer and cervical cancer.

Breast cancer can affect both women and men.

According to doctors, men are susceptible to breast cancer when they grow older between the ages of 60 and 70 and suffer from the same types of cancer that women do.

As the world commemorates Breast Cancer Awareness month, many men and women revealed that they have never gone for cancer screening for various reasons that range from bad health seeking habits to spiritual beliefs.

Yahaya Matege, a boda boda cyclist said that he has never gone for screening because he has never felt the need to.

Thirty-six-year-old Esther Kisakye has never gone for screening because she does not know anyone who has suffered from breast cancer.

Dr. Orem said that regular screening is important because all types of cancer if discovered early can easily be treated compared to when they are discovered late.

He said that the most important tool to fighting cancer is prevention that starts with awareness.

Dr. Orem said that people need to move towards prevention because the cancer incidence in the country is on the rise.

In 2008, the burden stood at 270 new cases per 100,000 people. Today, it stands at 349 and is expected to jump to 400 new cases by 2020.

At the cancer institute, screening is available on a daily basis free of charge. On the open market, breast cancer screening and testing costs between 105,000 and 200,000 Shillings. Breast cancer gene testing costs 3.5 million Shillings.

UCI estimates that around 500,000 people are living with cancer in Uganda without knowing it, either due to false diagnosis or simply because they do not know that they have cancer.

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