Conference promotes breast and cervical cancer awareness in Nigeria

May 07, 2004

In an unusual effort to create awareness of breast and cervical cancer risk, prevention, detection and treatment among African doctors and the public, physicians and scientists from the University of Chicago, the University of Ibadan (Nigeria), and the Medical Women's Association of Nigeria have organized the First International Workshop on New Trends in the Management of Breast and Cervical Cancers, to be held May 17-21 in Lagos, Nigeria.

"Somebody has to do this," explained Nigerian-born cancer specialist and conference organizer Funmi Olopade, MBBS, FACP, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. Although the five-year survival rate for breast cancer patients in the United States exceeds 85 percent, in Nigeria it is a dismal 10 percent.

"Cancer awareness, even among physicians, and much more so among women at risk, needs an enormous boost in Nigeria," Olopade said. "We think we have pulled together the resources to start to make that happen."

Besides Olopade, those resources include teams headed by Olayide Ogunsulire, MBBS, president of the Medical Women's Association of Nigeria, which includes all female registered medical and dental practitioners in Nigeria, and Adeyinka Falusi, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Advanced Medical Research and Training at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, the oldest and most prestigious medical school in sub-Saharan Africa.

A specialist in cancer risk assessment and prevention, Olopade studies young women with breast cancer. One of her current research projects involves untangling the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to early-onset breast cancer. She does this, in part, by studying the genetics as well as the reproductive, social, dietary, professional and cultural lives of young Nigerian and African American women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"That ongoing study quickly made us realize what a huge need there was in my home country for better information about breast cancer detection and treatment," Olopade said. "We were trying to follow about 500 young Nigerian women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, but in a very short time, without access to optimal treatment, almost all of them had either died or been lost to follow-up."

The severity of the problem even touched Olopade's family. Several years ago, Nigerian doctors diagnosed a breast lump in Olopade's 32-year-old cousin as a "boil" and left it untreated. By the time the young woman came to the United States for care, she had large tumors in both breasts. She subsequently died of metastatic cancer.

"Cancer is a global problem," emphasized Olopade. Unfortunately, in much of Africa HIV has overshadowed it, but it remains a big problem and a leading cause of death.

"We have made real progress in much of the world in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment, but very little of that progress has made its way to sub-Saharan Africa," Olopade said. "This conference is designed to speed that transfer, to increase societal awareness of cancer within Nigeria and to empower Nigerian physicians to get involved in cancer research."

The conference is divided into two segments. The first day, May 18, is aimed at the general public, especially professional women, and will concentrate on cancer awareness and education. Days two through four are for health professionals and will focus on the science of cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, staging, treatment and supportive care.

Conference Schedule

Lagos, Nigeria 2004

Lagoon Restaurant, Victoria Island, Lagos

Tuesday 18th May 2004
Opening Ceremony
Address by the Honourable Minister for Health, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo
Guest Lecture: Breast Cancer: The race for a cure in our lifetime. Prof. Olufunmilayo I. Olopade
Cultural Display and Entertainment
Key Note Address: Her Excellency, Chief (Mrs.) Amina Atiku Abubakar, Wife of the Vice President of Nigeria and Founder of WOTCLEF
Vote of Thanks: Professor I.F. Adewole, Provost College of Medicine, University of Ibadan
Awareness Session

Cumberland Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos

Wednesday 19th May 2004
Epidemiology and Screening
Diagnosis and Staging

Thursday 20th May 2004
Treatment of Cancer
Supportive Care and Prevention of Cancer
Cancer and the Community

Friday 21st May 2004

For more information, see

University of Chicago Medical Center

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