Breast cancer is becoming an increasingly global epidemic,
plaguing more people in developing countries where mortality rates
are higher and many lack access to care, US researchers warned.
"We used to think breast cancer was a problem of only wealthy
women, but now we know breast cancer shows no favourites: It strikes
rich and poor women alike," says Felicia Knaul, Ph.D., who heads
the Harvard Global Equity Initiative. "The only difference is that
by the time the disease is diagnosed in poor women, it is often too
late for effective treatment. "
Behind the bad news about breast cancer: infectious diseases
have been losing ground; nutrition plays a role; and people in
developing countries are living longer, Knaul said.
About 1.35 million cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed
worldwide in 2009, accounting for 10.5% of new cancers in
second place behind lung cancer, according to the study by the
Harvard School of Public Health.
56% chance of dying from breast cancer in poor countries
Breast cancer cases are expected to surge by 26% by 2020
with some 1.7 million new cases most of which will be in low- and
middle-income developing countries, the researchers said.
This year alone more than 55% of the 450 000 reported
breast cancer deaths worldwide will be in countries that do not
have the resources to deliver early diagnosis and treatment.
That is why the likelihood of dying from breast cancer -- which
is highly treatable if caught early on -- hits a high of 56%
in the poorest countries, 39% in middle income countries and
just 24% in the wealthiest countries.
"To attack the breast cancer global problem, there is not a
one-size-fits-all solution," said Dr Lawrence Shulman, head of the
Dana Farber Cancer Institute and a conference leader. "What works
in rural Mexico is different from what is needed in Malawi or
More money, time needed
Key trouble spots include the lack of an adequate
infrastructures so patients can be cared for; getting women to come
in for screening; and overcoming the social stigma associated with
breast cancer, researchers added.
In an effort to counter the challenge, Knaul, one of millions
living with breast cancer, will be chairwoman of the upcoming
international conference, "Breast Cancer in Developing Countries;
Meeting the Unforeseen Challenge to Women, Health and Equity."
A task force first must work at expanding access to cancer
education, detection and care in the developing world, the
Currently, only 5% of the global resources for cancer
are spent in the developing world, they noted. – (Sapa, November 2009)
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