Challenging the Myths About Cancer, Causes, and Care

Challenging the Myths About Cancer, Causes, and Care

International Perspectives

Feb 03, 2016

World Cancer Day logoBy Fredrick Chite Asirwa, MD

There are so many myths about cancers and their causation that may be detrimental to cancer control efforts, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Working in a rural facility, we noted that most women who were sent to have a biopsy done for diagnosis of breast cancer ended up absconding and avoiding the clinic all together.

It was our belief that the cost of the biopsy made it inaccessible. We worked out ways to decrease the cost for this vital step in the proper treatment of cancers. Due to our rural outreach activities, community health workers made us aware that part of the problem was people in that area believed a biopsy of any mass would lead to the cancer spreading quickly. They also believed that one died much faster if the scalpel was used at any point during the cancer diagnosis or treatments. They had many examples that they quoted.

We quickly realized that to be able to mount successful cancer care services, we needed to fully educate the community on the importance of tissue diagnosis, as well as the role of the multidisciplinary team in cancer care, a team that includes the pathologists and surgeons, amongst other health care professionals.

We requested our breast cancer survivors join us in our efforts. They gladly came on board and at many community education events, breast cancer screening events, and community cancer clinics, the survivors were front and center. They talked about their experiences—sometimes they showed attendees the scars from their surgeries—they were bold, unafraid, unambiguous, and succinct. They took questions. They explained in vernacular languages. They were from all walks of life... teachers, farmers, businesswomen, and even a Catholic nun!

We have noticed over the years an increased uptake of our cancer services. In the fight against cancer, we are ONE!

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Dr. Asirwa is a principal investigator at Indiana University-Moi University’s AMPATH Oncology and Hematology, Executive Director of Beacon Health Services in Kenya, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Indiana University, and Field Director of Hematology and Oncology Programs at AMPATH at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Read more posts in ASCO Connection’s blog series on World Cancer Day:


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