Breast cancer awareness drive to be launched across cities

By Liu Zhihua ( ) Updated: 2015-04-28 15:40:13

A large survey on the public awareness of breast cancer is about to take place in cities areas of 11 provinces and municipalities in China, the organizer China Women’s Development Foundation announced on April 22 in Beijing.

"Breast cancer is hitting more and young, but unlike most cancers, it is a curable cancer if diagnosed and intervened early,"says Li Caiyun, general-secretary assistant with the foundation.

"We hope the project will help improve the public's knowledge on breast cancer, and raise people's awareness on breast cancer checkups in different age groups."

The foundation is an affiliation under the All-China Women's Federation, and since 2009, about 48.35 million women in rural China have received free breast and cervical cancer checkups, including about5.86 million for free breast cancer, under a program jointly launched by the All-China Women's Federation and the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

As most of the previous projects took place in rural areas, the survey this time will focus in cities, and includes migrant and laid-off women, according to Du Weili, director with survey department of the All-China Women’s Federation.

Migrant and laid-off women in Chinese cities often got ignored in previous breast cancer prevention and education campaigns, but their population is as large as to more than 50 million, Du notes.

"Migrant and laid-off women in cities have limited access to quality healthcare, due to low incomes, lack of awareness, and poor health insurance coverage,"Du says.

"They are a blind spot that has been ignored for a long time, and it is important to have statistics on them for public health policy making regarding the issue."

The survey will also gather information on the healthcare insurance coverage.

Public healthcare insurance differs from place to place in China, and it is urgent to gather solid statistics to understand how healthcare insurance policies in different areas impact on people’s treatment choice, in order to improve the policies, according to Li Caiyun, the official with the foundation.

In China’s aging society, with lifestyle changes, breast cancer incidence surges, and worse, the motility rate remains high due to lack of early diagnosis and standardized treatment, according to Xu Binhe, deputy director of the internal medicine department of the Cancer Institute and Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

The survival rate among stage one breast cancer patients is about 87 percent, the stage two 67 percent, and at the final stage it is only 35 percent, but only 20 percent of breast cancer patients are eat early stage when they get diagnosed, while in the Western countries, about 50 percent of breast cancer patients get diagnosed at stage one, according to Xu. 

Late diagnosis means complicated and costly treatment, especially when patients need to take targeted therapy drugs, which often costs hundreds of thousands yuan in a year, Xu notes.

In many developed countries, patients only need to pay a small part of treatment cost, thanks to comprehensive healthcare insurance system that incorporates public and social insurance programs. While in China, the burden often is solely on patients, except for a few provinces and cities, such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, and Qingdao city in Shandong province, Xu adds.

"Breast cancer is not as bad as other cancers, but it also needs early intervention and standardized treatment to secure a longer survival duration,"Xu says.

"Once it gets spread to other parts of the body, the cancer is often not curable."

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