Monday, 31 October 2016

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

For the fourth year in succession the Golden Star Ladies Club and Golden Star Health joined forces to host a breast cancer awareness program, coinciding with International Pink Ribbon Day, to raise awareness of breast cancer prevention among Golden Star’s catchment communities. 

This year the groups' target was to bring the total number of women screened during the three year period to over 10,000...and we are pleased to report that they did it!  In just three years the program has reached more than 10,400 women and girls and potentially saved as many as 270 lives.

Volunteer Myra Quarm records risk factor information
from a participant

Educating and Building Capacity

From its humble start in 2013, the aim of the Breast Cancer Awareness Program was to bring free and confidential clinical breast cancer screening to communities that would otherwise not enjoy this service, however the program continues to increase in depth and impact each year and now has the following elements:

Screening of women and girls across all districts of the Golden Star catchment communities;
An outreach to a massive 30 communities in 2016, as well as mine site workforces, through screenings at 41 locations, including 7 junior and senior secondary schools;
Recording of risk factor information for all participants to support diagnosis, treatment and cancer research;
Provision of education materials to participants, and education posters to community health facilities;
Breast cancer awareness and self-examination talks to build capacity in the local populace; and
Participatory training and capacity building for Ghana Health Services nurses, through the involvement, coaching and mentoring of specialist breast cancer nurses from Breast Care International.

Juliet from Golden Star assists with recording
participant details
To maximize opportunities for participation, screening sessions were arranged to coincide with non-farming days or market days increasing the opportunity for rural women to attend. 

Media support from local FM radio stations, and local gongon and megaphone announcements offered continual publicity and radio discussions for a wider reach. Screening dates and venues were repeatedly announced on air, at church forums, and via community noticeboards to promote the sessions. 

What Has Been the Impact?

With over 16 screening days in October 2016 the program attracted over 4,000 women who participated in clinical breast cancer screening with trained nurses. Of these, more than 90 women were referred for further diagnoses and management. Each participant was taught how to do breast self-examination, and also received a pamphlet detailing how to perform breast self-examination. 

Golden Star's CSR team assists with registering
women for screening
The importance of this program to the Golden Star catchment communities cannot be understated. Breast cancer remains one of the leading malignancies in Ghana and is the most common form of cancer. Girls as young as 14 are recorded with breast lumps and in Ghana almost 70% of cases are identified at an advanced stage, limiting treatment options and chances for survival. 

Breast cancer risk factor data collected during the program is provided to Breast Care International (BCI), a Ghanaian breast cancer specialist NGO, for use in breast cancer treatment and research. BCI provides local community outreach to support the communities after the program by connecting women advised on referral to local networks of survivors, carers and counsellors.

Some of the poignant moments indicating how well the program is received are outlined following:

In several communities, the chief and opinion leaders warmly received the team, and thanked them for the initiative. In one community, the chief called his spokesperson in specifically to inform the community over their announcement system. In another community, people came out and waved handkerchiefs to welcome the team.
Male community members were frequently spotted in communities walking their female colleagues to the screening centers to take part. 
Individual participants who had been screened went away only to return with their friends and relations to ensure that they also took part. 
Those who knew a little more about breast cancer shared their personal experiences with hope to inspire and encourage those women who were skeptical about breast cancer or hesitant about attending. One of the Golden Star young women surprised onlookers by talking about her experience with breast lumps in her 20’s.
The local nurses who took part in the training said their confidence in the service has improved through the exercise. Following the capacity building training in 2015 with the Breast Care International nurses, in 2016 the program was run entirely by local community nurses from Ghana Health Services.
One young man at a Golden Star mine-site donated half his month’s wage to the program. Other men, now so inspired by the women’s program are talking about men’s cancers and raising awareness.
At the secondary schools male and female students participated in education and awareness. The importance of men supporting and encouraging screening is critical to breaking-down taboos and mythologies associated with breast cancer.

Women waiting for screening

Prevention is Better Than Cure!

What does the program mean to its participants and supporters?

Bridget Acquah, Bogoso Health Centre, Enrolled Nurse

"This breast cancer screening program has really helped the communities around and within the catchment areas of Golden Star indeed. It has helped in creating awareness on breast cancer as well as educating local people on self-examination and seeking early care. Though some might find it challenging due to monetary issues, we are all the same grateful for your thought and care for women and the communities as a whole. Thank you."

Myra Quarm, former Golden Star employee and breast cancer program volunteer

"This is a rare platform that has been undertaken by Golden Star for empowering women in the catchment communities through awareness creation and early detection. My encounter with the program has broadened my personal experience and knowledge. It has indeed given me a sense of fulfillment in knowing that we are given the opportunity to engage with people who have little to no knowledge on breast cancer to share education and awareness with them."

George Amankwah-Kumi, Golden Star Group and Community Health Coordinator

"I feel strongly about the importance of this program to our communities. This year a young girl, just 15 years of age, was found with a large breast lump. During the program period I received notification from Breast Care International’s Peace and Love Hospital that she had attended for treatment. I am aware through the local Ghana Health Services nurses that others have also reported following referral."

Philipa Varris, Golden Star Vice President – Corporate Responsibility

"It makes me feel such happiness when I see the way the team is received in communities. The young women sit captivated by the words of the nurses and the more mature ladies crack jok
es to encourage the fun. At one location I attended, the young ladies had many questions about breast cancer and breast feeding. When the questions subsided, an older lady joked “How do I stop the men from biting my nipples?” The group was in gales of laughter. We saw 116 women in that small, isolated community. The older lady shook my hand with energy and expressed her gratitude. Despite the hard work of the month-long program, these are the moments that remind me of the importance of what we are doing."

If you'd like to find out more about Golden Star and its approach to CSR, please visit

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