The first Ghanaian Professor of Nursing, Professor Lydia Aziato, has advocated a comprehensive insurance coverage for breast cancer patients to improve affordability and access to screening and treatment.
Although the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) covers some aspects of the treatment process such as the surgery and chemotherapy, she said that was not always reliable.
Prof. Aziato explained that the cost of laboratory investigations for the process was not covered by the NHIS, while some patients also had to foot the bill for the total treatment due to the limited drugs the scheme provided.
She said some patients were not able to either start or complete the treatment even if the cost was subsidised, and that it had contributed to breast cancer related deaths in the country.
She made the remarks at an inaugural lecture on breast cancer care and pain management in Accra last Thursday.
The lecture, dubbed: “The Intersection of Subjectivism and Patient Centred Nursing for Breast Cancer Care and Pain Management”, discussed some critical findings on breast cancer and pain management.
“I, therefore, advocate financial support for women with breast cancer from both government and non-governmental sources, including individual and corporate bodies, to help in treating the disease,” Prof. Aziato said.
“The health insurance scheme should be expanded to cover all aspects of treatment and payment to health facilities, or supplies should be expedited,” she added.
Globally, over 2.3 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer, with 685,000 related deaths.
In 2020, breast cancer ranked first in both incidence and mortality in Africa, with 16.8 per cent new cases and 12.1 per cent deaths.
In Ghana, it ranked first in incidence and second in mortality, with 18.7 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.
That, Prof. Aziato said, was an indication that there were breast cancer survivors who required care, support and follow-up.
Breast cancer is said to emanate from uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, and although the main cause remains unknown, there are predisposing factors such as family history, early menstruation, late menopause, never breastfed, toxin exposure, hormonal therapy, among others.
The signs of the disease include a lump, changes in the size or shape of the breast, nipple or skin, abnormal discharge and pain which is a late sign.
Treatment choices include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal and immunotherapy depending on the stage and type of breast cancer.