On October 12th, hundreds of people gathered at the Westfield Monument to participate in the Breast Cancer Walk which began at Westfield and ended at the Independence Stadium. The walk was in celebration of “Pink October” which is geared towards raising awareness about breast cancer and also show solidarity in the fight against the disease.
Hulay Faal, a member of The Gambia Cancer Association League, took part in the walk. Asked about the importance of “Pink October” and how the breast cancer walk came to be, Ms. Faal stated that:
“We have a series of activities that celebrate ‘Pink October’. So basically, how it started is that last year we realized a lot of organizations and charities were having separate events and so this year, about 10 organizations decided to come together to mark the event and show solidarity. That was how we created The Gambian Cancer Association League.”
As part of their future plans, Ms. Faal mentioned other activities in the pipeline to mark “Pink October”, including a “Fashion Night” on the 26th of October at Tamala Hotel, and screenings with a mobile clinic from Dakar on November 1st and 2nd. Faal explained that there are no records kept on the estimated number of people who have breast cancer in The Gambia. “Breast cancer does not only affect women it also affects men significantly and about 2% of men have breast cancer, and for men they need to focus more on the nipple to check for any abnormalities and should go get tested if they come across any”.
Faal said plans are afoot to ensure continuity of breast cancer awareness outside of “Pink October”. “We will never stop raising awareness about breast cancer, we will keep sensitizing year in year out and we might do it differently every year, but most likely we will walk again next year.”
Faal also emphasized that currently treatment options for breast cancer in The Gambia are very limited since there are no mammogram machines in The Gambia to detect breast cancer. Patients are often referred to Senegal and this is a huge disadvantage because not all patients can afford to go to Senegal, while many others are already in the final stages of the disease. “This is why one of our objectives is to raise funds to get a mammogram for The Gambia.”
Jainaba Faal attended the walk in commemoration of her aunt who succumbed to the disease seven years ago, stating that it was the passing of her aunt that served as a wakeup call for her. “Breast cancer is real; always take care of yourself, observe yourself, seek medical expertise if you feel anything strange in your body and do not listen to anyone telling you to wait”, Faal told The Chronicle.
Yama Njie, a protocol officer who was also present at the walk said she went to support her fellow women, “I would like to let every Gambian woman know that every morning when you wake up, lay down and check your breast so you can know your condition. The easiest way to eradicate or prevent breast cancer is through constant observation,” said Yama Njie.