According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in Nigeria, an alarming number of 115,950 cases of breast cancer were detected in 2018 alone, tragically resulting in 70,327 recorded deaths. These statistics highlight the significant prevalence of breast cancer among women in Nigeria.
In today’s insightful interview, we will be sharing the remarkable journey of Mrs. Ugochi Ejiekpe, a dedicated medical radiographer who is passionate about raising breast cancer awareness in Nigeria and helping women who have the condition.
Mrs. Ugochi Ejiekpe is from Imo State, in the southeast of Nigeria. She was born into a humble family over four decades ago and began her early education in her hometown. While growing up, her dream was to become a medical doctor, but she ended up studying Medical Radiography at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Many women struggle with their self-esteem after having a mastectomy
Mrs. Ugochi is a dedicated medical radiographer at the National Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu. She shared that in her professional journey, she has encountered many women battling breast cancer. This first-hand experience ignited a deep passion in her to raise awareness about the challenging condition.
“My training at the National Hospital Abuja exposed me to the profound suffering endured by women facing breast cancer. It’s a torment I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Among the many patients I’ve had the privilege of working with, one story remains etched in my memory: that of Margaret, a well-educated matron who developed breast cancer.
I witnessed her unwavering battle with this disease. One day, she said to me, “I don’t want to die; I have to live for my children,” and those words brought tears to my eyes. She struggled to afford the costly drugs and hospital bills. I used to encourage her to keep her hope alive, but sadly, one day, I received the heartbreaking news that she had lost the battle to breast cancer. Her story represents just one of many women who lose their lives to this devastating disease every day.”
Breast cancer awareness
Motivated by these profound experiences, Ugochi embarked on a dedicated mission to campaign and raise awareness about breast cancer. Within and outside her workplace, she actively engages in conducting breast cancer screening and delivering impactful educational seminars. She is also an aspiring member of the Society of Breast Imaging and the American Association of Cancer Research.
most hospitals lack major equipment for obtaining precise images crucial for accurate breast cancer diagnosis and effective patient management
“Besides the lives lost, some women also struggle with their self-esteem after having a mastectomy (breast removal surgery). I once met a lady in her thirties who was very shy about undressing for a mammogram. What was her reason? Her left breast had been removed, and she was using padded bra to hide this fact. Sadly, a few years after her first mastectomy, doctors found cancer in her other breast.”
Ugochi’s unwavering passion lies in assisting women in their battle against breast cancer. She said she’s working on establishing an academy that’s primarily focused on educating women on breast care. Her research is dedicated to detecting the risks long before the first lump appears. She hopes that through this initiative, more women will be saved from this deadly disease.
If you feel a lump in your breast, do not ignore it. Even if you don’t feel the lump, always go for a checkup at least twice a year
When asked about the challenges she faces as a radiographer, she said, “The Nigerian healthcare system isn’t receiving adequate attention and support from the government. We lack adequate healthcare facilities, manpower, and access to treatment.
For example, most hospitals lack the major equipment necessary for obtaining precise images crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective patient management. As an individual, I feel compelled to continuously raise awareness about these challenges in the health sector. And I’m hoping that one day, there will be improvement.”
Another significant challenge she pointed out is the issue of poor remuneration and unfavorable working conditions. With a few staff members covering a substantial workload, the strain on resources and the impact on patient care are evident.
Mrs. Ugochi has been married for 18 years and is the mother of four children. When asked how she balances her family and work responsibilities, she explained, “I live in Enugu, and the traffic situation can be overwhelming sometimes. To avoid arriving at work late, I wake up very early in the morning to prepare for work. My kids are grown now and can assist with domestic chores, allowing me to focus on my work. I am always very busy, but in summary, my secret to balancing work and family has been proper planning and time management. Most importantly, my husband has been of great support to me.”
My training has exposed me to the profound suffering endured by women facing breast cancer
Mrs. Ugochi emphasized the importance of early detection and intervention in the fight against breast cancer. When asked to leave a final word of advice for women, she said, “If you feel a lump in your breast, do not ignore it. Even if you don’t feel the lumps, always go for a checkup at least twice a year. Fear, ignorance, and sometimes poverty should not be allowed to claim lives through cancer. Women are strong and resilient, but we need to take care of ourselves.
Research has shown that adopting a nutritious diet and making positive lifestyle choices can significantly reduce the risk of developing this disease. Let us come together to support and empower one another in this fight against breast cancer. I believe we can create a future where every woman has the knowledge, resources, and opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilling life.”