Gambia: ‘Cancer patients get sent home to die,’ survivor laments
The lack of early detection and intervention for people with cancer due to poor health care facilities in The Gambia has meant that diagnosis comes too late for most, which compromises their chance of recovery.
This bleak assessment was made by breast cancer survivor, Ida Ceesay-Ndiaye who organizes annual screening campaigns through The Gambia Cancer Associations League on the latest episode of The Sisters show over the weekend.
“Initially we said we were just going to screen 300 people for breast cancer and cervical cancer. With the demand we ended up having to do 402. Out of those people we had 16 that was stage 4 breast cancer. Overall, out of the 402, we had 300 that were positive, meaning some were breast cancer, the other ones were cervical cancer. What we found out was that the people that actually came knew something was wrong with them and so they came. Then we had 32 that were suspected cases of cancer. We were overwhelmed as far as what to do.
The doctors cannot diagnose it. The only thing they can do if they feel, for instance breast cancer, is to do surgery. If you need radio therapy, if you need chemotherapy you have to travel to Senegal to do this. It’s very expensive as you know. Chances of you having somebody there, accommodation, food and transportation and then you have to deal with all of this became very hard on women. Our health system is not equipped at all to help cancer patients. My organization has helped so many people. Cancer League has helped so many people go to Dakar, but by the time they get there it’s already too late and there’s nothing they can do. So Senegal is now having to say ‘well if it’s a stage four we are just sending you back home to go die. Essentially!”
“As it stands we do not have any treatment center in The Gambia. We do not have a single oncologist in The Gambia.What we have are general surgeons. So if they somehow do a biopsy which can take 2-3 months before you even get the results back. If you get it back and you are suspected of having cancer the only option they can give you is to have surgery meaning they can cut off, do a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. If you need additional treatment you have to go to Senegal. No other option”.
The Sisters Show airs every Saturday at 8:00PM GMT, 4:00PM EST.