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Improving survival rates of breast cancer in underserved communities

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Oct 01, 2020

By the Philips Foundation team

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual global campaign to increase awareness and raise funds for research. While breast cancer rates are higher among women in developed regions, rates continue to rise in nearly every country globally. To improve breast cancer outcomes and survival, Philips Foundation provides access to early detection through screening and breast self-examination. 

Globally, breast cancer represents one in four of all cancers in women. Impacting 2.1 million women each year, in both developed and developing countries, breast cancer is the most frequent cancer in women, according to WHO [1]. It is estimated that worldwide, 627,000 women died from breast cancer in 2018, approximately 15% of all cancer deaths among women. Although it is thought breast cancer is to be a disease of the developed world, almost 50% of breast cancer cases and 58% of deaths occur in less developed countries [2].


Philips Foundation’s work is centered around access to healthcare for disadvantaged communities. In Peru, Germany and Poland, the Foundation supports life-saving breast cancer awareness projects that improve survival rates of women who lack access to preventive screenings or reliable information about breast cancer self-examination.


Building bridges through a multi-lingual app to improve breast cancer awareness

Women with a migrant background in Germany lack access to relevant and useful information on the importance of early detection of breast cancer and like an how-to of self-examination or helpful contact points. Reasons are language barriers or the given cultural structures which allow women to participate little in public life.


By developing a tailor-made multi-lingual app, proving knowledge about breast cancer and the importance of early detection, it is possible to reach these women. It has been proven that smartphones and tablets are widespread among this target group to share information. This way, the possibility of self-help, such as learning how to palpate one’s own breast professionally or benefiting from health services will be available and shared in this community to those affected.


The app targets women with migrant backgrounds by overcoming language barriers and offers the target group an information service that does not require physical visits to offices and provides an initial orientation for early detection of breast cancer. Philips Foundation supports this Pink Ribbon Germany initiative through beta testing by Philips employees and the rollout of the app at the beginning of 2021 to reach as many women with a migration background as possible.


Safeguarding Polish women from breast cancer


Annually, 18,500 women in Poland develop breast cancer while the waiting time for an ultrasound at public healthcare facilities can take up a few months. Being aware of the importance of breast cancer screening, the Philips Foundation and Philips Poland secured ultrasound examinations for 1,000 women in Poland with limited access to healthcare as part of the “BreastFit: Woman’s Breast. Man’s Matter” campaign.

Supporting measures aimed at enhancing the quality of life of cancer patients and improving access to diagnostic testing is part of our mission. 

Reinier Schlatmann, General Manager of Central & Eastern Europe at Philips

In addition, workshops will be organized for women living in rural areas on the importance of self-examination. By doing so, Philips Foundation supports the campaign launched by the OnkoCafe Foundation and joins forces with Novartis Poland.


Last year, the Philips Foundation and Philips Poland joined forces with the Rak'n'Roll Foundation to raise awareness around the importance of breast cancer examination for pregnant women through a series of nationwide impactful workshops. Another edition of nationwide training for gynecologists to expand access to breast examinations for pregnant and breastfeeding women has just started. 


Reaching out to low-middle income communities in Peru

With breast cancer being the leading cause of cancer among women in less developed countries, the need for early detection is on the rise. In low-and middle-income countries, such as Peru, late-stage presentation, and inaccessible diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer are common. Access to detection tools like mammography is not readily available.

PATH, a global organization that works to eliminate health inequities, has developed an integrated model for early detection and therefore increase chances for women from disadvantaged communities to be treated successfully. The PATH model aims to reach women at the community level with messages that enable women to do annual clinical breast examination (CBE) and understand the importance of early detection. By bringing the examinations closer to home, by training midwives to perform CBE, it becomes easier to reach the clinic and not have to travel long distances or to pay for public transport.


During the month of Breast Cancer Awareness and beyond, Philips volunteers will support PATH in its mission to increase breast cancer awareness among Peruvian women through a targeted (print and social) media outreach. Philips volunteers conducted interviews with breast cancer survivors in Peru to further develop the targeted campaign. Public health partners in Peru and organizations dedicated to breast cancer survivors will also support the media by deploying their digital networks.


In addition, an internal campaign – alongside a fundraiser to support PATH – is being launched within Philips to make employees aware of the fact that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. An internal campaign will emphasize the importance of self-research to make people realize that it can happen to anyone, at any time, in both women and men.




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