Two therapy radiographers will be joining a team travelling across seven rural communities in Kenya to help raise awareness of breast cancer, and the importance of early intervention.
GenesisCare centre manager, Jacqui Dorney, and research radiographer with Omar Medical Ltd, Lynne Omar, will be visiting the Busia County region of Kenya, near the Ugandan border, in September. They will be travelling with a small team including Dr Pauline Rajan, a consultant radiologist, who is a specialist in breast imaging.
The Cancel Cancer Africa trip has been organised by Good 4 Africa, a UK-registered community interest company working in partnership with local doctors and volunteering nurses. The team will provide education via road shows, hand out leaflets explaining what signs and symptoms to look out for, demonstrate how to perform self-examinations and encourage women to go to see a doctor if any problems occur. They hope to also take a portable laptop ultrasound so that any initial diagnostic tests needed can be carried out immediately.
Jacqui, whose trip is being funded by GenesisCare UK, discovered the charity through the Breast Cancer Awareness Group to Kenya 2014 facebook page. She said: “I found out more and felt this was something I wanted to support. It is so sad that, despite Africa having a comparatively low prevalence of breast cancer, the disease is rarely picked up early leading to a devastating number of potentially preventable deaths.
“In the UK we are incredibly lucky to have access to cancer screening, and prompt access to diagnostics and treatments. Every day I treat patients with advanced, highly targeted radiotherapy, and it’s easy to take this for granted.”
Lynne was looking for an opportunity to carry out some charity work when she discovered Cancel Cancer Africa. She had previously spent five years as a member of a research team funded by Cancer Research UK at Kings College London University, looking at promoting the early presentation of breast cancer.
She said: “As soon as I heard about Cancel Cancer Africa I knew I wanted to get involved. Their last trip to Nigeria attracted over two thousand women who wanted to learn more or wanted to have a breast examination, and this resulted in eight women being referred for further investigations.
"By working alongside a team of doctors from Kenya we will be able to use our expertise without the added problem of language or cultural barriers.”
The health awareness programme, which started in Africa six years ago, is run by Ronnie Jacobs who works with health organisations, local governments and health ministries in Africa to reduce the rate of mortality and morbidity caused by cancer.
Ronnie explained: “The cancer burden in Africa is a very complicated issue. Fear and ignorance are costing lives, and we want to put a stop to it. Lack of awareness about symptoms, religious and cultural beliefs, as well as superstitious misconceptions can prevent some women from seeking help. Part of our job is to explain the facts and highlight the enormous benefits of seeking help early.
“We have a lot more work to do, but are already seeing what a difference can be made. It’s fantastic to have Lynne and Jacqui on board, especially as they have a wealth of breast cancer knowledge between them. We’re still looking for more volunteers and, while experience working with breast cancer would be useful, you only really need to have the drive and enthusiasm to make a difference.”
Volunteers will need to be available for two weeks from 15th September 2014 and pay for - or secure sponsorship to cover the cost of - their flights, insurance and inoculations. Cancel Cancer Africa has secured funding from Kenya’s Busia County Government to cover accommodation, security, food and local travel.
Jacqui concluded: “I hope more volunteers sign-up – the more of us there is, the more people we will be able to see. I feel so lucky to be involved – it is an amazing thing to be able to go and do. If we make a difference to just one life, then it will have been very worthwhile.”
Click here to listen to Jacqui Dorney talking about the charity trip on BBC Radio Solent.