My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women

International Women’s Day: A Focus On Breast Cancer In Low-Income Countries

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Photo from who.int.  A nurse does a breast examination at a clinic in Ikorodu, Lagos

Photo from who.int. A nurse does a breast examination at a clinic in Ikorodu, Lagos

Today is International Women’s Day, a day where we remind ourselves and the world that every woman, no matter where she lives, no matter her circumstances, race, economic status or religion, deserves equal rights.  Today I want to focus on how every woman deserves top notch care when it comes to the diagnosis of and treatment of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is most frequently diagnosed in developing countries but this could be due to a few factors.  First, screening and education are more readily available in a developed country.  Second, in developed countries, women are more likely to have children at a later age and environmental factors such as nutrition contribute as well.  While developed countries like the U.S, Canada, and European countries have higher rates of diagnosis, many underdeveloped and low-income countries have high mortality rates, probably due to lack of early detection and access to medical care.  Facts taken from Cancer’s Global Footprint which has an interesting interactive map. 

One of the problems is that there is very little funding for cancer in low-income countries.  Take a look at this chart by PRI.org (Public Radio International).  In developing countries, more than 4.8 million people die from cancer but only $168 million goes toward funding and research.  There have been 1.1 million deaths due to TB yet they receive $903 million in funding.

Chart credited to pri.org

Chart credited to pri.org

I’m not saying that it’s bad that so much funding has gone toward, HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.  It’s because of that funding that mortality is dropping and that is a great thing.  But isn’t it time that cancer in low-income nations receive the same funding and consideration?  That women have the same access to care and education as I have the privilege of obtaining?

Listen to this woman’s story.  She is from Haiti and didn’t get a breast cancer diagnosis until the lump grew so large that it broke through her skin.  According to this article and interview, many women in parts of this country don’t even know about breast cancer and that it is treatable with early detection.  They also speak to doctors who are working in clinics in Haiti and are working hard, in collaboration with institutions in America, to bring care to women afflicted with breast cancer and other cancers.  It is a fascinating listen but also puts a harsh spotlight on the lack of resources for cancer and breast cancer in developing countries and the tough fight that doctor’s and educators are facing.

So today, on International Women’s Day, let’s not forget about all of those women who are living with and dying from breast cancer and don’t have the resources to gain education or treat it.  Every woman deserves the opportunity to fight this disease.  Let’s educate ourselves on the plight of women all over the world who have or will have breast cancer.

You can also make a donation to Partners In Health, who is mentioned in the story above and working with women to treat breast cancer in developing countries.

Here’s another interesting article found on the World Health Organization’s site.

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