Prayers can’t cure breast cancer – Professor of Nursing

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Ghana’s first Professor of Nursing, Professor Lydia Aziato, has called for a sustainable collaboration between religious bodies, prayer camps, spiritualists, traditionalists, and health care professionals in providing care for patients with breast cancer.

She said series of studies she had conducted had revealed that some women went to prayer camps for several months before going to the hospital, which delayed their treatment and caused complications.

Delivering an inaugural lecture at the University of Ghana (UG) Thursday evening, Prof. Aziato, who is also the Dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, UG, said some of those women lost their lives as a result of the delay.

“It was realised that the many months of prayer did not cure the breast cancer but rather contributed to spread of the cancer cells,” she said.

The lecture was on the theme: “The intersection of subjectivism and patient centred nursing for breast cancer care and pain management.”

Prof. Aziato mentioned family history, early menstruation, (less than 11yrs), late menopause (55yrs or more), never breastfed (female adult), late age at first full-term pregnancy, no full-term pregnancies, toxin exposure, and hormonal therapy as among the predisposing factors that could cause breast cancer.

She said the research found that Ghanaian women identified breast lesions accidentally or purposively through regular breast self-examination.

She urged women to undertake regular breast self-examination so that any abnormality could be identified early.

“Early diagnosis can save a life; however, our studies found that diagnosis was sometimes delayed. Emotional reactions associated with diagnosis included shock and sadness because of fear of death associated with breast cancer,” she noted.

Prof. Aziato said women who were reliant on their spouses financially were more prone to delayed treatment.

She said it was, therefore, important for women to endeavour to work and manage their finances to be economically independent, to take control and contribute to their healthcare needs.

She also called for continued education on breast cancer with emphasis that: “cancer is not contagious, and it is not a disease acquired through witchcraft.”

Prof. Ahiato said some misconceptions about breast cancer and its treatment, especially death associated with breast surgery heightened stigma and contributed to some patients keeping their conditions to themselves.

While sympathising with women who could not afford treatment for breast cancer, she called for the strengthening of the National Health Insurance Scheme to cater for some essential drugs and the cost of laboratory investigations.

She also appealed to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and philanthropists to contribute to making chemotherapy drugs and cancer treatment modalities available to women.

“Patients with breast cancer should be supported emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually to help them go through treatment,” she said.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are over 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer globally and 685,000 deaths.

In Ghana, breast cancer ranked first in incidence and second in mortality with 4,482 (18.7 per cent) and 2,055 (13.0 per cent) respectively, according to the 2022 Global Cancer Observatory.

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