Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN) is a leading not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation galvanising action against breast cancer in Nigeria. Founded in 1997 by Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, a breast cancer survivor herself, BRECAN is increasingly improving the lives of many touched by breast cancer who would have succumbed to the disease due to ignorance and lack of support. She was inspired by the strength gained from her traumatic experience and the indifference surrounding the disease. Quoting her
my experience of shattering loneliness, unavailability of information and group support coupled with ‘tight-lip syndrome’ and indifference surrounding the disease so stirred me that I was inspired to do something that will bring about a positive and lasting change in the attitude of breast cancer victims themselves and the Nigerian society toward breast cancer and sufferers.
Today, BRECAN is encouraged that its programmes are sensitizing the Nigerian public. Consequent upon the use of awareness creation as an entry point in the fight against breast cancer, more victims are coming out, seeking information and support. Breast cancer, hitherto, discussed in hushed tones is now a topic widely featured on the electronic and print media. Our innovative activity , Jog for Life is succeeding in breaking down walls of secrecy and stigmatisation as survivors showcase that there is life after breast cancer. Though, regrettably, the absence of a national policy on cancer has left cancer patients basically on their own, BRECAN has demonstrated that a helping hand, no matter how small, can make a difference in lives of cancer patients and their families. With the collaboration of some doctors and other health professionals, the Association provides emotional and informational support and healthy living tips to patients and family members at the BRECAN Centre during the monthly breakfast aerobics session. Given that it is not within the scope of the Association to sponsor patient treatment, yet some very needy patients are assisted from the paltry proceeds generated internally. Furthermore, sequel to the collaboration with a volunteer team of consultants at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, Federal Medical Centre, Ebute-Meta and Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, BRECAN readily refers any woman with any complaint about breast changes to these experts thereby creating access for women to have clinical breast examination free of charge.
With democracy in place, hopefully, BRECAN is working on enlisting the participation of female legislators in the National Assembly. Noting that breast cancer is a disease that has a woman s face and respects no social status, there is need to nudge them to rise up to their responsibilities as women politicians with a focus. Together we can create an unstoppable force in the National Assembly pushing for passage of bills that will compel our government to place breast cancer on national agenda. It is our hope that all these actions and many more to come will pave the way to ending the regime of breast cancer as a life threatening disease in Nigeria.
BRECAN was founded by Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu in October 1997 after her experience with breast cancer. It is a not-for-profit and non-governmental organization with a mission to eliminate breast cancer as a life threatening disease in Nigeria through public education, patient support, advocacy and research. BRECAN has its headquarters in Ibadan, Oyo State with affiliates nationwide. Membership is open to all regardless of gender or socio-economic status.
Since inception, BRECAN has initiated many programmes aimed at raising breast health awareness and galvanizing action against breast cancer and cancer in general. Prominent among them are:
1. Breast Cancer Awareness Out-Reach: We target women groups, market women, young girls in secondary and tertiary institutions where breast self examination (BSE) is promoted and timely presentation of unusual signs to a doctor is emphasized.
2. World Cancer Day: The World Cancer Day comes up on February 4th of every year. Though initiated in 2005 by UICC (Union for International Cancer Control), a renowned international cancer organisation based in Switzerland and at the forefront in global fight against cancer, BRECAN has become the trailblazer in Nigeria, marking the event consistently since 2007 with the collaboration of schools mostly in Ibadan and in 2013, Oyo State Ministry of Health came on board as a partner.
3. Jog for Life: Jog for Life was initially organized every October which is the breast cancer awareness month but as the popularity is growing, it is now being organized anytime of the year upon request. It is a home-grown and fun-filled outdoor event for everyone concerned about breast cancer. It aims to raise awareness and funds, celebrate survivorship and promote exercise as a healthy life style. What started in Ibadan with less than 100 participants in 2002 when nobody wanted to be associated with breast cancer has grown to become an event that is now held in at least three cities where over 5000 dynamic and diverse participants including students register to take action against breast cancer. Apart from raising awareness, Jog for Life has been critical in fundraising for BRECAN projects as well as serving as a platform to celebrate survivorship and promote exercise as a healthy life style. In addition, Breast screening has become a component of Jog for Life in past two years. Usually a notable woman is the lead jogger. 2012 Jog for life in Lagos (Oct 13) and Ibadan (Nov. 3) were led by Her Excellencies, Dame Abimbola Fashola, wife of Lagos State Governor and Chief (Mrs) TitiLaoye-Tomori, Deputy Governor, Osun State respectively. In 2013, Jog for Life in Ibadan (Oct. 5) was led by Alhaja Zainab Alatise, wife of the Honourable Chairman, Ibadan NE Local Government while the maiden edition in Abeokuta was led by Her Excellency, Mrs Olufunso Amosun, wife of Ogun State Governor.
4. Hope Lodge @ BRECAN Centre: Established in 2010. It is a “home away from home” where breast cancer out-patients with their family members can stay while receiving treatment at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. While it is our little way of alleviating the chronic accommodation problem faced by these individuals especially the first timers to Ibadan and the needy patients, the project obviously contributes to the socio-economic development of the immediate community where the centre situates by creating jobs and a recreational facility.
5. BRECAN Wellness Club: As part of our effort in promoting breast health education and cancer prevention through healthy living, BRECAN now has a wellness club which has the mandate to organize a breakfast aerobics programme on first Saturday of every month between 7.30 am – 10.00 am at BRECAN Centre, 18 Akinyemi Way Off Ring Road, Ibadan. The maiden edition was held on January 7, 2012 with an impressive turnout. A monthly e-newsletter is now in circulation.
6. Special Events:
a. National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) Advocate Summit, Washington D.C. USA, May 5-8, 2012: With the support of Oyo State government, BRECAN sent delegates to this annual summit. The breast cancer advocacy community is animated because a deadline has been set to eradicate breast cancer by 2020. Our participation provided an opportunity to lend our voice in fashioning out how this mission can be accomplished. BRECAN is now among numerous organizations worldwide that have endorsed the deadline. Our participation in the summit has become an annual event. We are proud to be part of this conversation. To learn more, please visit www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org
b. BRECAN Anniversary and BRECAN Breast Cancer Symposium. Every five years BRECAN celebrates its effort in the fight against breast cancer in Nigeria in conjunction with an international symposium on breast cancer. The event provides us with the opportunity to assess our journey so far and bring in international experts who will share their knowledge and the advances made in delivering effective therapies for improved survival in their climes. The BRECAN 15th Anniversary and 2nd Breast Cancer Symposium was held in Ibadan, 31st October –November 3, 2012.
7. BRECAN Choir:
We have constituted a choir for kids, 7-15 years old. They are being groomed to use their young voices and dance steps to raise awareness. They are increasingly becoming advocates and avenue for reaching their parents who ordinarily will not pay attention to breast cancer. We started in 2012 an annual musical concert for charity named “Sing for Life” holding during the Christmas period. It aims to mobilize community participation in breast cancer advocacy and raise funds for BRECAN projects.