Although breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women in Poland, the statistics show that the incidence and mortality due to this disease continue to rise. Although there have recently been some positive changes, such as improved access to innovative therapies, plenty still needs to be done to change the poor statistics. In order to do that, prevention and speedy diagnostics are key. However, these have been adversely affected by the current epidemiological challenge caused by COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to support women, the Philips Foundation will finance 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. By doing so, Philips Foundation will support the campaign launched by the OnkoCafe – Better Together Foundation and join forces with the campaign’s main partner, Novartis.
According to the National Cancer Registry, more than 18,000 women in Poland are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. More than 6,500 of them die, even though a third of these patients could have been saved if the disease had been diagnosed earlier. The problem lies in both inadequate systemic support and the lack of awareness. In some regions, women need to wait for a few months to have an ultrasound examination at a public healthcare facility, while the waiting time for a genetic test may be even much longer. Breast self-examination also involves serious problems. Only 42 per cent of people in Poland are aware that breast self-exam should be done at least once a month. Women tend to be slightly better informed (50 per cent of women vs. 33 per cent of men). It is also alarming that nearly 50 per cent of female respondents do not do their monthly breast self-exam. Only 53 per cent of women do it on a regular basis. Moreover, 66 per cent of women do not know when to perform a breast self-exam during their menstrual cycle. This translates into Poland’s poor statistics compared to the rest of Europe: the 5-year survival rate in patients with breast cancer in Poland is lower than in other developed economies by between ten and twenty percentage points. Additionally, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, access to diagnostic testing is even more limited.
- Lack of adequate prophylaxis is a major factor contributing to the late detection of breast cancer. Only half of all eligible patients undergo the generally available screening test for women over 50, while younger women tend to skip breast self-examination which is crucial for the early detection of breast cancer. Meanwhile, it’s the cases diagnosed as stage 1 that have the greatest likelihood of recovery, which may reach up to 90 per cent,” says Agnieszka Jagiełło-Gruszweld, MD, PhD, Maria Sklodowska-Curie National Research Institute of Oncology in Warsaw. - Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has made the situation even worse. The fear of getting infected keeps patients from getting examined, which further delays the diagnosis and the start of the treatment process. - she adds.