By Gift Briton

To reduce inequalities in breast cancer deaths, the World Health Organization(WHO) has issued a new operational approach based on three pillars of action for countries to implement in their national programs.

Launched a day ahead of the World Cancer Day campaign marked on February 4, the new Global Breast Cancer Initiative Framework recommends countries to implement health promotion for early detection, timely diagnosis, and comprehensive management of breast cancer to reduce global breast cancer mortality by 2.5% per year and save 2.5 million lives by 2040.

According to WHO, more than 2.3 million breast cancer cases occur each year, making it the most common cancer among adults. Furthermore, 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 with nearly 80% of fatalities happening in low- and middle-income countries.

Among countries achieving sustained mortality reductions, the report reveals that most breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, reinforcing the value of effective early detection programmes for improving breast cancer outcomes.

“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 Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO in a statement.

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, recommending countries to focus on breast cancer early-detection programmes so that at least 60% of breast cancers are diagnosed and treated as an early-stage disease, diagnosing breast cancer within 60 days of the initial presentation can improve breast cancer outcomes.

Treatment should start within three months of the first presentation and managing breast cancer so that at least 80% of patients complete their recommended treatment.

According to the organization, accelerating the implementation of the Global Breast Cancer Initiative has the potential to avert not only millions of avoidable female cancer deaths but also the associated, intergenerational consequences of these deaths.