Breast Cancer Issues in Developing Countries: An Overview of the Breast Health Global Initiative
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Of the 411,000 breast cancer deaths around the world in 2002, 221,000 (54%) occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LMCs). Guidelines for breast health care (early detection, diagnosis, and treatment) that were developed in high-resource countries cannot be directly applied in LMCs, because these guidelines do not consider real world resource constraints, nor do they prioritize which resources are most critically needed in specific countries for care to be most effectively provided.
Established in 2002, the Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI) created an international health alliance to develop evidence-based guidelines for LMCs to improve breast health outcomes. The BHGI held two Global Summits in October 2002 (Seattle) and January 2005 (Bethesda) and using an expert consensus, evidence-based approach developed resource-sensitive guidelines that define comprehensive pathways for step-by-step quality improvement in health care delivery.
The BHGI guidelines, now published in English and Spanish, stratify resources into four levels (basic, limited, enhanced, and maximal), making the guidelines simultaneously applicable to countries of differing economic capacities. The BHGI guidelines provide a hub for linkage among clinicians and alliance among governmental agencies and advocacy groups to translate guidelines into policy and practice.
The breast cancer problem in LMCs can be improved through practical interventions that are realistic and cost-effective. Early breast cancer detection and comprehensive cancer treatment play synergistic roles in facilitating improved breast cancer outcomes. The most fundamental interventions in early detection, diagnosis, surgery, radiation therapy, and drug therapy can be integrated and organized within existing health care schemes in LMCs. Future research will study what implementation strategies can most effectively guide health care system reorganization to assist countries that are motivated to improve breast cancer outcome in their populations.
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