Explore and Understand Africa Through Her Food and Culture

He who wants to plant corn must make peace with the crows. -African Proverb

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Breast Cancer Stigma and Silence In Africa

In many African countries, breast cancer patients face stigmas and misperceptions. As in other parts of the world; a woman who has breast cancer may be seen as less than a woman.


Breast cancer stigma


In many African countries, breast cancer patients face stigmas and misperceptions. As in other parts of the world; a woman who has breast cancer may be seen as less than a woman. #cancer #breastcancerIn Africa a major misconception about breast cancer is the belief cancer patients brought the disease on themselves and the disease is contagious. Other serious reasons are lack of resources, social stigmatization and religious beliefs can keep women from seeking help.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in Africa. The average age at which African women present with breast cancer is 35 - 45 years, 10 - 15 years earlier than their Caucasian counterparts. Patients in Africa often present with late-stage breast cancer that has spread to other organs and is very difficult to treat. Stigma around cancer is a relatively untapped field, while much research has been done around HIV/AIDS, which is also often highly stigmatized.

Less than a women


In some communities in Africa the stigma surrounding breast cancer is so great that people hide the disease from their family and friends and will not seek treatment until they are in severe pain. The stigma surrounding breast cancer is so great that people hide the disease from their family and friends and will not seek treatment until they are in severe pain. 

Women in communities where men are allowed more than one wife have a great fear of being disfigured by surgery and losing a husband and support for their children.

A woman who loses her breasts is seen as less than a woman. The preventive early screening for breast cancer is not utilized where available and this leads to unnecessary deaths. Also in some African communities, are Muslim and women cannot expose their breasts to a male doctor or nurse as part of a screening program.


Cancer patients in poor communities face unique challenges in having to cope with breast cancer. Not only do they have to deal with the life changing emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis, but also with poverty, lack of access to care and dependence on their husbands for financial support who may hold sigma’s of their own about breast  cancer.

No Matter How Long The Night, The Day Is Sure To Come -  African Proverb


Share this page

Trending Now

Did you know?

The eye never forgets what the heart has seen - African Proverb