Fighting Breast Cancer in Developing Nations


SEATTLE, Washington — Breast cancer is the most common cancer to afflict women around the world in both developed and developing nations. It affects 2.1 million women each year. In 2018 alone, it was the cause of around 627,000 deaths, making up 15 percent of all cancerous deaths in women globally. Developing nations have lower survival rates because of a great lack in early detection programs which results in a high proportion of women presenting late stages of cancer. Thankfully, the following four organizations are fighting breast cancer in developing nations to alleviate some of these preventable deaths.

Fighting Breast Cancer in Developing Nations

Breast cancer has long been categorized as a disease of the developed world. Although breast cancer rates are higher in developed nations, they are rising in all regions. At least 50 percent of all breast cancer cases now occur in developed countries along with a 58 percent rate of breast cancer mortality. However, there are heartbreaking differences in breast cancer diagnosis in developed versus developing nations. The survival rate in North America is higher than 80 percent while the survival rate in African nations is lower than 40 percent. This can largely be attributed to discrepancies in access to resources.


Project PINK BLUE is an organization that has been operating in Nigeria since 2013. Its goal is to change how Africans view cancer and provide support in terms of cancer awareness, free cancer screenings, advocacy and fundraising for patients. It also supports “cancer research, oncology training and psychological support services.” It largely focuses on breast and cervical cancer. One of the organization’s primary concerns is providing services in hard to reach areas such as rural and poor urban populations.

Project PINK BLUE’s major breast cancer program is called Breast Cancer Navigation and Palliative Programme (BCNPP). BCNPP educates nurses, midwives, cancer survivors and social workers to become patient navigators who are able to help educate women with breast cancer as well as provide emotional and psychological support. They help guide them through finding and adhering to treatment. Alongside patient navigators, the program also offers palliative care to those with advanced-stage cancer. BCNPP provides a toll-free telephone number that women can call to ask questions and find resources concerning breast cancer. Through its programs, Project PINK BLUE has provided more than 28,088 free breast and cervical cancer screenings in Nigeria.

Pink Caravan

The Pink Caravan is a breast cancer initiative launched in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2011. The organization was started by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and his wife Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi. Both are proponents of public health in the UAE. Pink Caravan works to provide early detection screenings, spread awareness of the importance of self-breast examinations and dispell myths associated with breast cancer. It advocates for improved standards of screening and treatment and the creation of a National Breast Cancer Registry.

One of the Pink Caravan’s crowning achievements is the opening of the Sharjah Breast Care Centre in partnership with the University Hospital Sharjah and the Gustave Roussy Cancer Centre in Paris. Since 2011, the organization has performed 64,012 clinical examinations, opened 795 clinics and performed 18,630 mammograms.

Women Aid International

Women Aid International is an organization based in London. It is a global human rights organization focused on women and children that is working alongside other INGOs and the United Nations on global programs. When it comes to breast cancer, Women Aid International aims to assist women in countries lacking basic resources and to provide adequate breast cancer services.

Women Aid International is working towards this through its breast cancer-specific program, the Pink Ribbon Project. This program is a breast cancer awareness and action program with the goal of increasing breast cancer awareness and providing funding to ensure women in developing nations receive the care they need. In order to do this, the project has a few different focuses. It acts as an intermediary and coordinator between different individuals and groups involved in promoting breast cancer awareness and prevention through early detection. It helps to provide medical equipment, train medical staff in detection, establish support groups and advocacy programs.


PATH is an international nonprofit headquartered in Seattle, Washington. It works in 70 countries across Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. The organization’s goal is to improve the overall health outcomes of populations living in low-resource settings. It is aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, specifically goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing.

In its work, PATH saw that the incidence of breast cancer in developing nations was increasing, but detection tools were generally unavailable. To address this, PATH launched a community-based breast cancer program in Peru, which has 4,000 new cases of breast cancer annually, 1,200 of which result in death. This program implemented a culturally sensitive step by step process that first provides breast cancer information and referrals for exams, and then has trained midwives to perform breast examinations.

If a mass is found, the woman is then referred to a community hospital with more advanced technology for a biopsy or ultrasound before being referred to the national cancer hospital or a regional cancer clinic for a more definitive diagnosis. Those diagnosed during this process are then assigned a patient navigator through PATH who helps the woman deal with financial concerns, provides psychological support, closes communication gaps and helps the woman navigate the medical system and treatment. This program was found to be effective and is now being workshopped to be applied in Uganda as well.

Moving Forward

Breast cancer is a painful and scary affliction. The impact of breast cancer in developing nations is only increasing even though the technology for early detection and treatment exists. In order to curb the rising breast cancer rates in developing countries, services for women in these countries must be provided. The four organizations fighting breast cancer in developing nations are a few of many working to help.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr


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