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Stigma faced by Ugandan women with breast cancer

Stigma, misinformation and poverty all conspire against women suffering from breast cancer, reports Denise Grady for the New York Times.

Her excellent story profiles some of the women in Uganda who are suffering from breast cancer and are trying to seek treatment. One of the people is Jessy Acen, a thirty year-old mother of two whose husband abandoned her after she was diagnosed.

Cancer had caused immense, painful swelling on the left side of her face, and in her left arm and hand. The disease had also spread through her skin from one breast to the other and erupted into oozing sores that she treated by wrapping her chest in bandages. She often sat with the swollen arm cradled in her lap, a position one comes to recognize among women here with advanced breast cancer.

The disease was diagnosed in 2008 when she was only 25. She had a mastectomy at a hospital near home and began chemotherapy, but could not afford the full course of drugs. Within a year, the cancer sprang back, invading her armpit, blocking lymph nodes and causing the swelling in her face and arm.

“When she made contact with us, she had advanced disease,” said Dr. Fred Okuku, an oncologist at the cancer institute. “Straight to the lung, straight to the liver. And what we’ve been doing is to try to prolong her life, and also give her treatment with the aim of reducing the pain.”

Watch Jessy’s story above, read more about it here and read another article about stigma and poverty’s affect on cancer in Uganda here. It is worth your time to read both.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]