Update: Pink Ribbon | Red Ribbon – Our Work in Africa
Greetings from Lusaka, Zambia!
One of the best parts of my job is witnessing firsthand the solid progress for women’s health that can occur when great minds and great resources work together. I was delighted today to be in Lusaka, Zambia, to help dedicate a new African Center of Excellence for Women’s Cancer, made possible in part by the extraordinary work of our new Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) initiative.
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is a partnership with Komen, the George W. Bush Institute, UNAIDS, PEPFAR, Merck and Glaxo Smith Kline to greatly improve screening for cervical cancer and improve education and screening for breast cancer. You can read more about this partnership here. Here’s why cancer screening and treatment is so important in developing nations.
Cancer today kills more people worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined – more than 7 million people annually. The burden is harshest on low-resource and developing countries, where 60% of cancer deaths occur today. The issues are economic: medical resources are very scarce and education and screening for diseases is sparse. They are also cultural: there are often stigmas associated with cancer, and women fear seeking help if they feel a lump.
The result is that, far too often, women arrive for treatment with tumors breaking through their skins, dying in agony of cancers that could have been successfully treated at earlier stages.
It’s a cruel irony that in some countries, enough progress has been made in maternal health, nutrition and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment that women are living long enough to develop cervical and breast cancer. In Zambia alone, breast and cervical cancer among women account for over 41% of cancer deaths in the country. With most new cases of cancer arising in the developing world, we must take steps to stem this growing cancer tsunami.
Komen has been active in developing nations for many years – helping to break down some of the myths around breast cancer and to provide resources to detect and treat it early, when most forms of breast cancer are most easily treated. We’ve provided more than $44 million to international researchers and community programs. We work in partnership with hundreds of breast cancer organizations on the ground on five continents. Our view is that where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.
So we were very excited today to witness the 43rd President, George W. Bush, and Mrs. Bush officially dedicating the new African Center of Excellence for Women’s Cancers in Lusaka, whose purpose is to reduce deaths from women’s cancers in the African region by raising the standards of care through education, training and research, with a focus on primary and secondary prevention and treatment of early stage disease. This center will have distance learning and point- of-care capability to support the healthcare workforce, both in Zambia and across many African countries.
Komen, too, has recently expanded our work to Zambia. Through a Komen grant, the Center for Infectious Diseases Research is establishing the Cancer Prevention Alliance of Zambia. This alliance convenes existing breast and cervical cancer advocacy organizations in Zambia to coordinate strategies and share best practices.
Additionally, through our partnership with Merck, we will begin scaling up breast and cervical cancer education to increase knowledge and awareness, and reduce stigma throughout Zambia in coordination with local NGOs, the Zambian government, the U.S. government, and our PRRR partners.
And today, we announced a commitment of $200,000 to develop and implement a provider breast cancer training curriculum that will address gaps in the breast cancer continuum of care. In doing so, we will build on the expertise of in-country providers including nurses, general practitioners, radiologists, pathologists, oncologists and surgeons
Our efforts and partnerships in more than 50 countries are aimed at fulfilling a lofty vision: a world where no woman or man has to worry about breast cancer ever again. As I stood at the ceremony today – far, far from home – I was once again humbled to know that whatever our differences, our locations, our languages, so many of us are united in this most noble of human ventures: to end suffering from one of the world’s oldest and deadliest enemies.
We can save so many women and men from this suffering, as we work furiously in the laboratories to find the cures. It will take a global community to do it, and all of us at Komen are grateful for the partners, healthcare workers, scientists, partners and advocates who are helping to make a world without cancer a reality.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.