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MSF Supports Women In Mali To Fight Breast And Cervical Cancer

As part of the project by MSF, 166 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 126 with cervical cancer between January and June 2021.

Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, an International NGO is supporting the women in Bamako, Mali in the fight against breast and cervical cancer.  

The organisation, in collaboration with Mali’s Ministry of Health, and its many partners said it screened more than 5,000 women in Bamako during the Pink October campaign.

Alice Authier, MSF’s oncology project coordinator in Mali said early diagnosis, particularly in the case of breast cancer, is essential to improving chances of survival and ensuring speedy access to treatment. 

“Our aim has been to develop a project with the Malian authorities to ensure all women with suspected breast or cervical cancer have access to screening, diagnosis and treatment,” she added. 

The organisation also said it has been providing three therapies depending on the stage of cancer, which can be either used together or separately; the therapies are surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 

The chemotherapy sessions are done at Point G Hospital’s oncology and haematology department, according to MSF.

“In 2020, there were a total of 3,000 sessions. We have also refurbished a room to improve chemotherapy to safety standards. We supply drugs when the government runs short. We also pay for our patients to have surgery in Point G and Gabriel Touré hospitals as treatment must be initiated quickly. Beating the disease is a race against time,” MSF said.

With over 20 million population, Mali hospital is the only health facility with a radiotherapy machine. “It isn’t enough to treat all patients, waiting times can be long and breakdowns are common. It should also be pointed out that radiotherapy can’t be interrupted because the effects can be more harmful than if the patient had never started it,” MSF said.

The organisation said they have also donated equipment like biopsy forceps, organised information campaigns, and provided technical assistance to midwives and nurses in Bamako’s health centres. 

“All samples and specimens are sent to Point G Hospital’s anatomopathology laboratory (examination of abnormal changes in cells and tissues), the country’s only laboratory with the facilities required to diagnose cancer. We helped to refurbish, equip the laboratory and continue our work there to ensure diagnoses are accurate and rapid. Depending on the results, we offer patients specific therapies,” MSF said 

The organisation said there will be increased awareness of the need for screening and the different treatment options available to them. 

“We also need to increase systematic breast and cervical cancer screening in routine medical consultations. We now want to go farther afield than Bamako and set up similar activities in other of the country’s regions,” MSF added.

“Building multidisciplinary cancer care with Mali’s health authorities, associations and civil society and facilitating patients’ access to treatment pathways, radiotherapy, in particular, are set to be the priority for the next few years,”.

Cervical cancer can be caused by a long-lasting infection with a certain type of human papillomavirus. However, medical practitioners said taking the HPV vaccine and also having pap tests every year may reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

By the end of 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that there were 7.8 million women alive who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years.

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