The following press release was distributed by the international breast cancer group Susan G. Koman:
Susan G. Komen® today announced the release of the results of a milestone survey – A Comprehensive Assessment of Breast and Cervical Cancer Control in Zambia – that serves as a roadmap for women’s cancer control and prevention in Zambia, with potential in other African countries and resource-constrained regions where women’s cancer cases are growing at a disturbing rate.
Funded by Susan G. Komen and Merck & Co., and produced by the African Centre of Excellence for Women’s Cancer Control, the survey is the first detailed assessment of the breast and cervical cancer treatment landscape in Zambia. It outlines actions that governments and nonprofit organizations can collectively take to improve access to cancer prevention, screening and treatment services and reduce breast and cervical cancer deaths among Zambian women.
Cancer is projected to increase at a staggering rate in developing countries over the next two decades by as much as 60 percent. In Zambia, women will be hardest hit, as breast and cervical cancer are the most common malignancies – the number of cases of breast and cervical cancer account for 50 percent of the cancer cases in Zambia – and have the highest cancer-related mortality rates.
The survey assesses existing barriers to improving cancer treatment and prevention in Zambia, from a notable shortage of trained mid- and high-level health care providers to marked disparities in access to care in rural parts of the country. In addition, the report outlines short and long-term actions that can be put into effect to overcome these barriers, including establishing a national women’s cancer control center to coordinate all aspects of women’s cancer screening and treatment services in Zambia as well as establishing a program to train much-needed pathologists and surgical oncologists.
“Prior to this survey there was no national-level data available on women’s cancer control services in Zambia,” said Dr. Judy Salerno, President and CEO of Susan G. Komen. “These much-needed insights will help us effectively build upon existing platforms to better provide the screening, education and treatment services that will have the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Zambian women.”
Dr. Groesbeck Parham, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Founding Co-Director, Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Zambia and the survey’s leading investigator, called it an important first step to cancer control for many low- and middle-income countries.
“If we are to significantly improve cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa we must first quantify the existing gaps in care and treatment,” Parham said. “This survey produced data that will now be used for constructing innovative health care service delivery and training platforms that can thrive in low-resource environments – in Zambia, other countries in the region and in developing nations around the globe.”
The survey builds on a much broader effort. Komen’s engagements in Zambia are part of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon® initiative, an innovative public-private partnership aimed at catalyzing the global community to reduce deaths from cervical and breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa by raising awareness of these diseases and increasing access to quality services to detect and treat them. Komen’s Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon in-country programs are supported in part by Merck & Co.