World Health Organization Launches Plan to Prevent 2.5 Million Breast Cancer Deaths By 2040

World Health Organization Launches Plan to Prevent 2.5 Million Breast Cancer Deaths By 2040

More than 2 million cases of breast cancer are diagnosed globally each year, accounting for roughly a quarter of cancer diagnoses in women. Though the incidence is higher in high-income countries, the mortality rates are worse in low-income countries. In fact, nearly 80% of worldwide deaths from cervical and breast cancer occur in middle- and low-income countries. A new roadmap from the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to address this, and save millions of lives in the process.

In February, WHO released a new Global Breast Cancer Initiative Framework aimed at preventing 2.5 million breast cancer deaths by 2040. It focuses on steps countries can take toward early detection, timely diagnosis, and disease management.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, says, "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. We have the tools and the know-how to prevent breast cancer and save lives. 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."

In sharing the framework, WHO noted that these efforts could have a big impact on children, as nearly 1 million children were orphaned by cancer in 2020. About a quarter of that was due to breast cancer.

The framework to help minimize such impacts focuses on three pillars: One, recommending that countries focus on early detection programs so at least 60% of cases are caught and treated in early stages. Two, diagnosing breast cancer within 60 days of initial presentation and beginning treatment within three months of initial presentation. And finally, managing breast cancer so that at least 80% of patients complete their recommended treatment.

Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for Noncommunicable Diseases, says, "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. With effective and sustainable primary health care, we can really see a pathway to universal health coverage."

WHO says these efforts could not only lower cancer deaths, but also minimize the consequences of these deaths on future generations.

Michelle Milliken

Michelle has a journalism degree and has spent more than seven years working in broadcast news. She's also been known to write some silly stuff for humor websites. When she's not writing, she's probably getting lost in nature, with a fully-stocked backpack, of course.

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