The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new Global Breast Cancer Initiative Framework, providing a roadmap to attain targets to save 2.5 million lives from breast cancer by 2040. The new framework recommends that countries implement three pillars of health promotion—early detection, timely diagnosis, and comprehensive management of breast cancer—to reach the targets.
There are more than 2.3 million cases of breast cancer that occur each year, which makes the malignancy the most common cancer among adults. In 95% of countries, breast cancer is the first or second leading cause of female cancer deaths. Yet, survival from breast cancer is widely inequitable between and within countries; nearly 80% of deaths from breast and cervical cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, MD
“Countries with weaker health systems are least able to manage the increasing burden of breast cancer. It places a tremendous strain on individuals, families, communities, health systems, and economies, so it must be a priority for ministries of health and governments everywhere,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, MD, Director-General of the WHO. “We have the tools and the know-how to prevent breast cancer and save lives. The WHO is supporting more than 70 countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to detect breast cancer earlier, diagnose it faster, treat it better, and give everyone with breast cancer the hope of a cancer-free future.”
Cancer in women, including breast cancer, can cause devastating impacts for the next generation. A 2020 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggests that with an estimated 4.4 million women dying of cancer in 2020, nearly 1 million children were orphaned by cancer, and 25% of those deaths were due to breast cancer. Children who lose their mothers to cancer experience health and educational disadvantages throughout their lives, triggering generational, chronic social disruption and financial harm, in many cases.
Pillars of Action
“Countries need to ensure that this framework engages and integrates into primary health care. This effort would not only support health promotion, but also empower women to seek and receive health care throughout the life cycle," said Bente Mikkelsen, MD, MHA, WHO Director for Noncommunicable Diseases. "With effective and sustainable primary health care, we can really see a pathway to universal health coverage.”
The newly published framework leverages proven strategies to design country-specific, resource-appropriate, health systems for the delivery of breast cancer care in low- and middle-income settings. It outlines three pillars of action with specific key performance indicators:
Accelerating the implementation of WHO’s Global Breast Cancer Initiative has the potential to avert not only millions of avoidable cancer deaths but also the associated, intergenerational consequences of these deaths.The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.