Adekunle: Early Diagnosis Can Prevent Breast Cancer


Dr. Megbuwawon Adekunle is a Public Health and Family Medicine Specialist. In this interview with Sunday Ehigiator, the Me Cure Head of Strategy and Commercial, talked about the need for early diagnosis, free mammogram screening by Me Cure, and the need for self examination, among others. Excerpts:

Why are you emphasising on early diagnosis?
In this part of the world, we hardly do preventive medication. People do not find out what is going on in their body. So most times, by the time we know there is a growing cancer cell in the body, it becomes too late. For breast cancer, most women present when they are on stages three or four, and at that point the only thing that can be done is surgical removal of the breast, then chemotherapy, drugs and radiotherapy. But with late presentation comes a high mortality rate.

So at the end of the day, the best mode of care is early diagnosis. Our body is like the iceberg phenomenon. If you remember the titanic story, when the ship was going, they saw a very tiny iceberg and felt oh!, we can just walk through it. But unknown to them, on the inside was a massive ice. So, our body behaves that way. When changes are going on at the celebral level it doesn’t show, but by the time it will now show on the surface, it becomes difficult to address.

So, one of the core missions of Me Cure Health Care Limited is to improve early diagnosis. We are not just here in Nigeria to do business, we are also here to affect the health care of the populace. There are two types of care, we have the health care, and we have the disease care. Most people are aware of disease care. That is when the person gets sick and treated. But health care is holistic; that is looking at the person that is not sick; we are looking at the entire body and how do you care for that body. This is preventive care.

Why is your focus on the use of mammogram?
That is why in this month of October that is declared the month of cancer awareness. As an organisation, we are collaborating with other bodies that try to talk about cancer care. A lot of them, based on the resources they have, are engaged in so many ways. There is a lot of awareness going on; people are talking about self-breast examination. People should be able to examine their breast by themselves. They should see the doctor to examine if they have lumps or not.

But the aspect of the mammogram, which will determine whether a lump is actually cancerous or not, has not been patronised as expected. That is why we decided to take things a step higher by picking this particular aspect, instead of doing what everybody is doing, since we have the equipment and experts on that; not minding the financial burden. And there is nothing like competition when it comes to cancer awareness, instead we engage in collaboration, and also use this as part of our corporate social responsibility to Nigerians. In essence, when you find out that there is a lump in your breast at the end of the day, we are saying that there is a treatment. And that is where the mammogram comes in. You can come to us and we would run it for you free of charge in this month of October.

So we are picking free mammogram for this year’s cancer awareness as part of our CSR. We believe that if we can prevent a lot of women from the early stage of cancer, if we can detect cancer at the early stage, we can prolong life.

Does this also entail treatment?
This is the first time we are actually going all out with this. For now like I said, there so many other organisations that are doing so many things. We are only doing free mammogram for now, and when we detect any abnormality; we have over 3,000 doctors in our network that we would refer anyone to. We also have so many cancer centers in our network. People can be referred to any of those centers and they would be appropriately treated. So we are basically concerned with the most important part of it which is diagnosing, while we refer to the appropriate centers if need be. So if you go through the mammogram and it shows you are free, at least, you would live with the relief of being free for at least a few years before engaging in the test again; because we do advice mammogram at least annually.

Where are your centers located for this exercise?
Our goal is to do 600 screenings in this month of October. We screen 25 people on a daily basis. We started October 1 and will end October 30. Part of what we are trying to achieve is to ensure that the place is not congested. The machine can take a certain number per day. So we book the people who signify interest; which is open to the whole public without any politics or favouritism. Since anybody can have cancer, so also, anybody should be diagnosed and treated without segregation; that is our principle of fairness.

And our enlightenment now is majorly on the social media, and the social media is a very big tool for mobilisation and information dissemination. And every day we are receiving calls, and then we investigate and book those that are qualified for the test, and give them appointment to come in a particular week within this month.
On our centers in Lagos State, we are in Oshodi and Lekki areas, and we are also doing it in Ibadan. We are in starting with those three centers. Going forward by next year, we would extend to Kano; we would extend to Umuahia, and likewise try to cover the whole six geo-political zones.

How would you rate response of beneficiary of this screening so far?
The response has been quite enormous. I can tell you right now, in Ibadan alone we have over 500 people that we have registered. In Lagos we have over 700 that have registered at Oshodi. But we can’t bring everybody at the same time. So we have to ensure that this is regularised. When they call us, they give us their details which includes their name, their date of birth, phone numbers, email and preferred location. Once they do that, we collate the list, sort it out, and those that are picked for that week are called, and appointment is secured with them based on their own convenience. We communicate to them through emails, calls and text messages. And likewise remind them when their appointment is close.

What are your social media handles for people that would love to participate in the exercise?
You can follow us on @mecurewecare on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, or follow me on @kunlemegbus on the above listed platform.