U.S. and Mexico seek to cut Mexican breast cancer deaths
By Deborah Charles
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - First lady Laura Bush and Mexico's first lady Margarita Zavala launched on Friday a joint effort to try to reduce breast cancer deaths in Mexico and improve early detection of the disease.
"Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death among women worldwide and more than a million women are diagnosed each year," said Bush in announcing the U.S.-Mexican Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research.
"In Mexico one out of every 258 women between the ages of 30 and 40 will discover they have breast cancer in the next 10 years. The majority of these cases will be detected in later stages, greatly reducing their chances of survival," she said.
The partnership with Mexico -- similar to others launched in the Middle East -- offers medical resources from the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center with the grassroots and educational resources of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in Mexico and throughout Latin America. According to official figures, 4,200 Mexican women die from the disease each year and breast cancer incidence has been on the rise in recent years.
"Breast cancer has no boundaries," said Hala Moddelmog, president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. "In many parts of the world breast cancer is still a death sentence and that's why we're here today."
According to statistics from Mexico's National Cancer Institute, 35 Mexican women are diagnosed with breast cancer each day and for 32 of them the cancer is already in an advanced stage, which reduces treatment success.
Mexico's first lady, Margarita Zavala, blamed a lack of information and poor education about the disease for problems in detecting it at an early stage when it is much easier to treat.
In a meeting at a nonprofit organization established in 2002 to improve awareness of importance of early detection, Bush and Zavala listened to tales of husbands leaving their wives after the women were diagnosed with cancer and how women often feel lonely after being told they have the disease.
Breast cancer survivors said breast exams were not a regular part of annual gynecological exams. They also said many women did not get regular mammograms due to high costs and a lack of sufficient mammogram units -- particularly in rural areas.
Bush urged Mexicans to continue working to reduce the stigma of having breast cancer.
"People don't get breast cancer because they did something wrong. And it's not contagious," she said. "And we really need to educate people."
(Editing by Jackie Frank)