The US National Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides the American Cancer Society the opportunity to talk about the breast cancer burden from not only a domestic perspective, but a global perspective as well. We know and understand that cancer has no geographical boundaries. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide.
An estimated 1.4 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 458,400 women died from breast cancer in 2008, despite the fact that many cases can be successfully treated when detected early. These death rates are climbing in many developing countries due to lack of access to affordable treatment and early detection. The five-year relative survival rates for breast cancer are as low as 12 percent in some low-income countries.
“Women’s health, fighting specifically breast and cervical cancers, is a cause we are dedicated to at the American Cancer Society,” said Ann McMikel, American Cancer Society Managing Director of African Cancer Control and Global Health Planning. “We are working to build lasting partnerships with nongovernmental organizations, political leaders and funders around the world to support our global grassroots network with the advocacy tools and resources they need to help make the greatest impacton this disease.”
To address the cancer burden in Africa and its unique impact on women, the American Cancer Society partners with a coalition of regional leaders, including health ministers, health workers, cancer advocates, and journalists, to raise global awareness about women’s cancers and promote policies that advance the fight against this disease. Through its successful capacity-building programs in Africa during the past 10 years, the Society has mobilized more than 150 civil society leaders from 15 countries and formed a powerful Africa Cancer Ambassadors Network that focuses on supporting policy-driven action and raising cancer awareness in the region. The Society also works with outstanding leaders, such as Olufunmilayo Olopade, M.B., B.S., F.A.C.P., of Chicago, in the field of US and global breast cancer research. Dr. Olopade, a recipient of the Society’s Distinguished Service Award, has examined the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in diverse populations. Her laboratory was the first to describe recurrent BRCA1 mutations in extended African American families with breast cancer, a study she has extended to the founder population of African Americans in West Africa.
In Latin America, the Society is creating high-level programs with ministries of health, patient-focused organizations, and the media to increase the national ability to address cancer as a complex disease with unique requirements for health systems. The Society has trained and partnered with more than 100 organizations and 1,000 advocates working in cervical and breast cancer in the region, and chairs the Latin America Advocacy Coalition on Women’s Cancers. These partnerships empower local civil societies to demand more effective cancer control policies, facilitate work with governments in Latin America to improve access to lifesaving services for low-income women, and engage the media to destigmatize cancer by amplifying the voice of the cancer survivor.
Focusing on fighting these cancers is a priority for the American Cancer Society, not only because they affect so many women, but also because proven prevention, screening, and treatment options exist.