Read my March 2010 interview with Jenny Luray about the Susan B. Komen’s international work battling cancer.
Can you talk about how breast cancer affects women across the globe?
In too many countries today, ignorance, fear and hopelessness still prevail, and women still have little or no access to care. Countries and cultures look the other way and women are dying needlessly. This year, cancer is projected to overtake heart disease as the worlds leading killer. Its far more devastating than we think because there is no accurate picture of its impact. In fact, thirty countries have no cancer registry. Less than 5% of the cancers in the Africa are counted by public health officials.
How did Nancy Brinker come to found Susan G. Komen for the Cure?
Thirty years ago, Nancy promised her dying sister, Suzy, that she would do all she could to end breast cancer. In those days in the U.S., people discussed the disease in whispers. Ignorance, fear and hopelessness prevailed. There was little access to screening and a diagnosis was almost a death sentence.
What policies would you like to see implemented in both the developed and developing world to address breast cancer?
First, we need global leaders to acknowledge that breast cancer and cancer overall is a crisis that we must address. Something is wrong when the deadliest disease on earth isnt mentioned in the public health reports of many countries, when cancer is hidden away in the category of other diseases as it is in the UN Millennium Development Goals. In the developed world, we continue to have enormous challenges as well. 100 days ago, a U.S. task force questioned the benefits of breast cancer screening. Women were confused and outraged and already, were seeing states deny poor women access to screening programs which save lives.
Are we doing enough to prevent breast cancer, and for that matter, other cancers?
Definitely not. Forty percent of all cancers are preventable, but were still losing ground. Tobacco use among girls aged 13-15 worldwide is increasing and smoking among women is on the rise in many parts of the world.
What more should we be doing?
Komen is starting a new global push involving governments, non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector. For example, we are convening a special session at the G-8 of health and finance ministers to discuss not only the public health impact of cancer but the economic impact as well. We want to partner with other global disease movements to leverage existing resources. We will build an international advocacy movement to keep pushing us forward. In the U.S., we are continuing to push for better access to breast cancer screening services because 1/3 of women who should be screened are not. We are also working hard to make sure that health care reform includes better, more equitable insurance coverage for women with breast cancer.
Can you give us some good examples of successful programs and advocacy efforts in this arena?
Komen holds Races for the Cure across the globe to build awareness, raise funds for local programs and develop advocacy partners on the ground. Last year, we held races in 13 countries and this year, we are organizing races in Brazil, Israel, Serbia and Tanzania. When we work globally, we also offer Course for the Cure, a series of easily adaptable training modules that are based on Komens experience in breast cancer awareness and advocacy. The modules cover: Community Assessment, Volunteer and Organizational Development, Awareness & Education, Fundraising and Advocacy. In 2007 in the U.S, we launched a sister organization, the Komen Advocacy Alliance to become even more active in advocating for legislation, regulation and other government action at the local, state, federal and global levels. The Komen Advocacy Alliance will ultimately join with other advocacy efforts around the globe.