By Diane Mapes / Fred Hutch News Service
Each October in the U.S., women are accustomed to hearing messages about early detection and breast cancer awareness. But what’s the best way to raise breast cancer awareness in countries with no mammogram machines and few cancer treatment centers?
That’s the quandary faced by global health experts like Dr. Ben Anderson of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; a University of Washington surgical oncologist, health systems researcher, and professor of global health who; 15 years ago, helped create the Hutch-led international health alliance Breast Health Global Initiative, or BHGI. Anderson has spent the years since coming up with pragmatic solutions for low- and middle-income countries, where women are traditionally diagnosed at much later stages and misguided good intentions often result in squandered resources.
“A common error is to package up a bunch of mammography equipment and ship it off to some country where it sits in the corner because you don’t have the infrastructure to make it relevant,” he said. “In Latin America and Africa, the majority of women are presenting with palpable masses. If you don’t have a set-up where you can evaluate it, sample it and prove that it’s breast cancer, you’re unable to move forward. Screening in that setting is irrelevant.”
What’s more relevant, he said, is implementing a tailored triage approach based on the resources that are available.