In developed countries, cancer, especially breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death. We do not necessarily realize cancer plagues developing countries as well. In fact, breast cancer is an even bigger problem in developing regions such as the Middle East than it is in Europe. Women in these regions are rarely diagnosed until the later stages of breast cancer. Cultural, societal, political and technical factors put women’s health at great risk for the future.
Globally we have seen a dramatic increase in the cases of breast cancer from about 641,000 cases in 1980 to 1.6 million in 2010. Unfortunately 400,000 women will die of breast cancer this year alone. The past decades has seen a shift of women in lower-income classes and developing countries suffering from breast cancer more so than upper-class women. An even more disturbing fact is that in these regions, women of reproductive age account for 40% of cancer deaths as compared to just 10% in Europe.
Women in the Middle East have much larger obstacles to overcome when it comes to preventing breast cancer. There are almost no nation-wide programs to encourage early screening and prevention. Very few women have access to the technology needed to test for breast cancer, and most do not see the doctor until their cancer is at a late stage. Finally women may feel shy or fearful to lose their husbands if they go visit a doctor. Due to such factors it is not surprising that in Saudi Arabia, for example, 70% of breast cancer cases are not reported until later stages.
To overcome these odds it will take innovation and collaboration between leaders of private and public sector. The good news is that there are already programs being implemented to fight these statistics. In Dubai in 2012 the Dubai Health Authority, the Ministry of Health and Sanofi and Philips Healthcare teamed up to launch a campaign with the slogan, “Healthy Women, Healthy Families.” They raise awareness about breast cancer by providing free mammograms through a digitally equipped trucks. In Egypt we have also seen steps to raise awareness. They are using 10 vans equipped with mammogram technology to travel to several regions and offer free tests. Over 106,000 women have been tested with this technology.
While the obstacles seem large for these women, the issue of breast cancer is a highly charged one. With invention and teamwork there is great hope that these statistics can be lowered.
– Catherine Ulrich
Source: WE Blog