One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. This is a stark reminder that, despite immense fundraising and research efforts, it is up to everyone to do their part to push for a cure.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, awareness is higher than it has ever been. But the road to a cure remains long. Calls to action have resonated loud and clear around the world this year; here is a round-up of the amazing efforts being undertaken to defeat the most common cancer to affect women worldwide.
Estrada Para a Saúde
In Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country (by territory), only 40% of women aged 50 to 69 have ever been screened for breast cancer in their lives. Compare that to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation that 70% of women in that age range get screened regularly, and the problem becomes clear.
A big factor in the lack of mammograms for Brazilian women is the uneven distribution of healthcare resources across the country: Brazil’s major cities have access to the latest in mammography technology and push hard to get as many women screened as possible, while the smaller rural towns suffer from scarce resources and low awareness.
Barretos Cancer Hospital has been helping to even the odds by taking mammography on the road. Using trucks fitted with 3D mammography units, the hospital has taken screening to those who need it most in the most remote parts of Brazil.
The hospital pioneered the program in 2003 with one truck, or Mammo-Van, that travelled around 18 towns in Sao Paulo. Now, the program is made up of 21 teams and 9 mobile units. Next year, the initiative will gain one more cancer prevention center in Campinas, which will have one more mobile unit and one fixed clinic for patients to follow-up their mammograms.
The program has been impactful: in the last year alone, the Brazilian Mammo-Vans have conducted 98,000 scans. During each scan, all women who come for screening are encouraged to get in the habit of regular checks and follow-ups.
La Tour en Rose
In France, the Eiffel Tower was lit up pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and people gathered to find out more about how to help fight the disease and obtain needed screenings free. The lighting was a part of the ‘Ruban Rose’ (‘Pink Ribbon’) event that was launched by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.
GE Healthcare France participated in the 14th Odyssea run in Paris, attended by over 1,000 runners and walkers raising funds for breast cancer research. A total of nearly 20,000 Euros was raised this year.
China Cabs Help Hail Awareness
Over in China, breast cancer awareness efforts have also gone beyond the pink ribbon. Worldwide taxi company Uber have been successfully running a campaign that is also helping more women get screened. In China’s four biggest cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou – Uber drivers have been giving out two free breast cancer check-up cards to each passenger. The initiative, as well as increasing the number of women who go for regular screening, is helping to spread the idea that early detection, and early treatment, are the way forward in the fight against breast cancer.
Though these campaigns have been taking place around the world, all are fighting against the same fears, misconceptions and anxieties that face many women when it comes to mammograms.
Barriers to breast care are almost the same wherever you go. One is fear- either from the pain caused by a breast exam, or the fear of finding a tumor. Another is prejudice – in many cultures, women are too embarrassed to be examined and might even oppose the idea entirely. Another, and perhaps the biggest, is awareness of risk factors – up to a third of women have dense breast tissue, but 80% do not know what dense breast tissue is.
These barriers differ slightly from country to country, but disseminating information and equipping women with the tools they need for cancer to be caught early will go a long way to stopping breast cancer in its tracks.