Collaborating to improve women’s healthcare around the world

From classroom to operating room: Ghana breast cancer training course

Participants in the Ghana breast cancer training course, January 2010, co-sponsored by the Breast Health Global Initiative and Ghana Breast Cancer Alliance.

Worldwide, breast cancer is a growing epidemic as women are living longer and communication and awareness of the disease increases. An estimated 1.5 million new cases will be diagnosed this year. Depending on where the woman lives, that may or may not be tantamount to a death sentence.

Founded almost a decade ago by breast cancer surgeon and University of Washington School of Medicine professor Dr. Ben Anderson and medical school program manager Leslie Sullivan, the Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI) seeks to bring a higher standard of breast healthcare to the world using an innovative model of collaboration with the best minds in breast cancer across the globe.

Communicating with clinicians in far-flung countries in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, they have developed workable guidelines that match resources on the ground – however limited those resources may be.

The Breast Health Global Initiative is achieving groundbreaking goals in developing realistic guidelines matched to countries’ specific existing resources – from low- to mid-levels of services that might be accessible in developing countries. Much of the work of the Breast Health Global Initiative also involves education: overcoming stereotypes and dismissive attitudes about women’s health that keep a woman with a lump silenced in fear of losing her husband and children. Changing cultural stereotypes and introducing breast self-examination to low-income countries are just the beginning.

The Global Summit on International Breast Health, June 9-11, will bring together in Chicago doctors, nurses, public health educators and administrators from 40 countries and six continents. Co-sponsored by BHGI and the Latin American and Caribbean Society of Clinical Oncology, led by Dr. Eduardo Cazap, the Summit will assess best practices and surgical techniques for low-resourced locations and diagnostic tools where mammography and ultrasound may be far-fetched fantasies for the near future.

Dozens of scientific poster presentations at the Summit will allow clinical providers from around the world to show their research and outcomes – ideas that have worked in their corners of the globe and which may inspire others to try something new that may save more women’s lives. The Summit will bring together national and international organizations from around the world to address a central theme: to produce scientific and clinical publications that will serve as medical tools for low- and middle-resource countries in perpetuity, freely available via the internet.

The spirit of ingenuity and generosity that is at work in the Global Summit is exemplified in leaders such as Dr. Ben Anderson, Dr. Eduardo Cazap, Leslie Sullivan and others around the world who see a problem, overcome barriers and engage with counterparts across borders to work on real solutions.

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