Colombia Marks Breast Cancer Month With New Detection Programs


Thousands of Colombians joined walks in the country in October commemorating International Breast Cancer Month. In
Bogota alone, about 6,000 people walked through the main streets wearing pink ribbons, the symbol of the fight against this type of cancer.  Demonstrations took place in other Colombian cities, such
as Cali, Pereira and Medellín. 

Many other symbolic activities were
held, such as a football game played by a team of women survivors of
breast cancer, called "The Colombian Team for Life," against a team
of TV anchorwomen.  Some celebrity women were part of the players
and the match was narrated by the more prestigious sport journalists.
The message: breast cancer can be defeated.  

To raise awareness on the importance
of breast cancer screenings, 30 palms
were planted to honor 30 women survivors of this disease.  One
of the women honored is 76 years old and has survived a double masectomy.

However, the International Breast Cancer Month was not limited to public acts. As a result of
the campaign, regional and local governmental bodies decided to develop workshops for university students and carry out
health visits to various public organizations, in order to inform and
educate about the early methods of detection.

Promoting prevention
is crucial in Colombia, as the rate of breast cancer is
on the rise. According to the Colombian
League Against Cancer
, about
6,000 women receive a positive diagnosis annually, and 2,500 die as
a result of breast cancer. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of the those killed by breast
cancer are women from developing countries, due to late diagnosis and
difficulties to receive timely and accurate treatment. Worldwide 545,000
women die annually. 

Olga de Santamaría, President of the
Colombian League Against Cancer, pointed out that from 2002 to 2007,
the rate of breast cancer has doubled.   Moreover, Walter
Antonio Pineda Ruiz, mastologue at the National
Institute of Cancerology
said that breast cancer would become the leading cause of death among women
50 and 69 years old, if the actual rate of 33 per 100,000 does not
decrease. 

The increasing number of cases is a
global trend, which affects the North as well as the South. Some analysts
say that it is due to chemicals used in crops, and in fast food products. 

Globocan, the WHO’s body in charge
of health statistics, reported in 2002 that breast
cancer made up 22.8% of total cancers. 

Unlike cervical cancer, breast cancer in Colombia concentrated among women of high income. Although the cause of breast cancer still unknown, some risky factors
have been identified.  The most relevant are: family relatives
who suffered breast cancer; early menstruation; late last menstruation;
absence of breastfeeding; frequent alcohol consumption; obesity and
previous detection of breast cancer. 

According to José Joaquin
Caicedo, mastologue (expert in removing breasts), women who have had
breast cancer are 0.5% to 1% more likely to develop breast cancer in
the other breast in the next ten years. 

The risk factors for recurrence are very complex,
however. Some doctors state that women under 35 years old are at greater
risk to have a second breast cancer, as well as those who received a diagnosis
in advanced stage of breast cancer development. 

The aim of the campaign was to promote the breast cancer early detection, through
the breast self-examination to detect lumps, and  mammograms, which
is the best method to be check for lumps.  

Along with Colombian non-governmental
organizations, many NGOs from Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela and Costa
Rica, members of Redcancer Program, from the American Society of Cancer,
developed on October actions to raised awareness on the methods to prevent
and combat breast cancer.

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