World Health Organization releases new road map for breast cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new road map on breast cancer, with a target of saving 2.5 millions lives from the disease by 2040.

Currently, there are more than 2.3 million cases of breast cancer that occur each year, making it the most common cancer among adults.

However, survival from breast cancer is widely inequitable between and within countries, WHO reports, with nearly 80% of deaths from breast and cervical cancer occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

“Countries with weaker health systems are least able to manage the increasing burden of breast cancer,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.

“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,” he added.

WHO’s new global breast cancer framework recommends countries implement ‘three pillars of health promotion’ for early detection, timely diagnosis and comprehensive management of breast cancer to reach the targets.

This includes investing in breast cancer early-detection programmes so that at least 60% of the patients are diagnosed and treated at an early stage in their disease.

The other pillars include diagnosing breast cancer within 60 days of initial presentation and ensuring treatment starts within three months of first presentation, as well as ensuring at least 80% of patients complete their recommended treatment.

Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO director for noncommunicable disease, said: “Countries need to ensure that this framework engages and integrates into primary healthcare. 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 healthcare, we can really see a pathway to universal health coverage.”

The new framework which, according to WHO, could prevent millions of otherwise avoidable cancer deaths in women, follows the World Health Assembly passing a resolution in 2017 pushing for the same actions for control.

Since 2018, WHO has developed integrated initiatives in women’s and children’s cancers, also calling for the elimination of cervical cancer and a doubling of childhood cancer survival rates.

Taken together, experts say these initiatives can ‘revert the generational harm’ from cancers and save more than a million lives in the next ten years.


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