“Tufiakwa”, premieres in Lagos, draws attention to cancer awareness

Worried by the increasing rate of breast cancer among many middle-aged women in Nigeria, Lilly Women’s Health Foundation, has released an eye-opener documentary film on breast cancer to raise awareness that the disease is real in the country.

Titled, “Tufiakwa”, which means God Forbid, in Igbo language, the film premiered at John Glover Hall, Lagos Island last Sunday. It stems from the general fear and religious belief among many Nigerian women that their faith in God immunes them from developing cancer.

Stigmatization and superstition due to multi-cultural diversity of Nigeria are big factors affecting acceptance of the reality that breast cancer exists, and even on the rise.

The film also stems from the fact that often, people do not want to be stigmatised with cancer by society and so, when they notice a lump in their breast they do not seek proper medical help but only to do so when the disease has reached an advanced stage.

The documentary is a witness to the breast cancer journey of women who had been diagnosed with cancer but survived because of early proper medical diagnosis and treatment using the mammography method.

The documentary is supported by the Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to boost the campaign about the reality of the scourge.

It featured some medical experts in Oncology and Pathology (both local and abroad), who explained cancer and its developmental stages as well as treatments. Two cases of breast cancer survivors handled by the foundation equally featured to tell their stories on cancer.

It also presented some religious church leaders who counselled people to work side-by-side with their faith and medical approach to deal with cancer growth in their body before it is too late. The belief that a child of God cannot have cancer is false. It is a sign of ignorance because countless Christians and Muslims have died from breast cancer.

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Lilly Women’s Health Foundation, a non- governmental organisation based in Lagos, is in the fight to save humanity through its social responsibility of awareness creation about breast cancer disease.

With its branded mobile (vehicle), the foundation goes to markets and churches spreading the message by offering free breast cancer tests for women with breast lumps with a view to immediate medical response.

At John Glover Hall, where the documentary premiered last Sunday in Lagos, a large audience and guests were present to take home lessons from the film.

Speaking at the event, wife of the Governor of Lagos State and the distinguished special guest, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, lamented that breast cancer is on the increase among women in the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) study shows that 2.2 million women have cancer globally. But in Nigeria, the case is on the rise due to lack of awareness, religious and cultural factors.

Dr. Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by Dr. Olufunmilola Mojushola, said cancer is a scourge that must be tackled in Nigeria as awareness creation and early medical detection remain key to recovery of the patient.

“Breast Cancer has become a worrisome trend among women in Nigeria. It must be tackled decisively”, she stressed.

She advised people to shun traditional approaches in the treatment of the disease as such an option is medically unscientific.

According to her, the Lagos State Government is doing its best to stem the tide of the deadly disease and encouraged women to go for screening as cancer is not necessarily a death sentence.

Speaking of the film, Dr. Lilly Ebeoma, executive producer of the documentary/ founder, Lilly Women’s Health Foundation, the essence of the documentary is to share the experience of cancer survivors who came to her hospital and got cured.

“Through the documentary, Tufiakwa, we want to share the experience of women with cancer who came to our hospital and got cured. Most cancer survivors are those who get early diagnosis and placed on treatment as long as possible”, she said.

She noted that breast cancer has become the most common cancer in the world, citing the scary study report that two out of every five Nigerian women have cancer, while three out of every five women die from breast cancer in five years.

Ebeoma expressed delight that her foundation’s partnerships with the Lagos State Government and some corporate organisations in creating public awareness and sensitisation on breast cancer are yielding fruits as some women now present themselves for screening.

She said LIlly Women’s Health Foundation is moving its awareness campaign to markets and churches to educate women on the deadly disease and the importance of regular checkup.

She advised women (40 – 65 years of age) who have noticed lumps in their breasts to go for a check rather than die out of religious ignorance and superstition.

Adelaja Adebayo, producer/director of the documentary, said the project took two years to complete.

In the course of shooting, Adebayo said his crew faced the challenge of secretiveness and sensibility on the parts of the respondents they sought to interview on breast cancer.

“The multicultural nature of Nigeria affected the sensibility of people we want to interview; a lot of people are secretive as they do not want to tell their stories because of the fear of stigmatization.”

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