EconomyBreast cancer has little pink

Breast cancer has little pink

(Expansion) – In terms of health, there is probably no more catastrophic word than cancer. Even with all the fear that listening to it can instill in us, we must get more and more used to it. In Mexico alone, more than 200,000 patients each year are diagnosed with some type of malignant tumor.

It is among the three most common causes of death in the country, behind only cardiovascular disease and complications from diabetes and obesity. And given that in Mexico 70% of cancer diagnoses are made at an advanced stage, the cost is extremely high both in terms of the impact on patients and their families, as well as in the economic cost that it means for the national health system.

Now, the impact is brutal on a group that is already vulnerable in the country: women. Despite recognizing that one in eight women will have breast cancer at some point in their lives and that it is the number one cause of cancer mortality in women, access to early diagnosis, for example, having a mammography study within reach, it is a privilege only of some big cities. The states with the lowest per capita income, without a doubt, are among those with the least access to timely diagnosis. In fact, only one in four women who should have this study done annually do so.

Until now, we have only considered the direct impact of the disease, however, there are other effects that are just as relevant and that considerably affect how a woman diagnosed with cancer can face and get out of this terrible health crisis: more than half of the women with a recent diagnosis of breast cancer are abandoned by their partner and considering that they are the support of children, patients and older adults, because they have to take care of themselves, which means having to take care of themselves within the therapeutic process, support themselves financially, take care of of their family as sole support and survive a health system that denies them access to comprehensive treatment for their illness.

Although many efforts have been highlighted to facilitate access to early diagnosis, medical education and resources through foundations and companies, the truth is that the component of delayed diagnosis is more complex. There are three reasons why breast cancer in particular, but cancer as a disease in general, is not diagnosed in time:

personal factors

Patients are afraid of receiving the diagnosis. The penetration of preventive health programs is very low in the general population, many times due to idiosyncratic issues.

In many communities, women do not have permission to get sick or worse still, although they suspect the possibility of having cancer, they anticipate that they will be abandoned by their partner and that the economic, support and disease burden will fall on them alone, so who decide not to go for help. “Why do I look for him, then I find him” is a very helpful voice to avoid preventive evaluations.

medical factors

The majority of women who have been diagnosed with cancer have spent more than eight months being seen and examined by a doctor who did not have the tools, experience, security or support to establish at least the suspicion of cancer.

A mastitis, a dermatitis that does not heal or a painless deformity, frequently go through medical consultations without being approached from the point of view of the possibility of cancer. Efforts are made by organizations to educate, generate sensitivity and knowledge so that the doctor feels safe and comfortable recognizing the possible diagnosis early in order to carry out the appropriate timely referral programs.

The system

For many women with suspected or diagnosed cancer, today there is no system that allows them to be treated in the closest and most efficient place possible. Many times they have to travel miles away from their home, at their own expense, a situation that is not sustainable in the long run and discourages continuing with treatments.

Access to mammography, breast ultrasound and needle biopsies, not even to mention molecular and genetic diagnostic tests, are only available to some sectors, particularly in large cities. At some point, the now dismantled Seguro Popular offered an efficient alternative to thousands of women who did not have health coverage in the IMSS or in private or pocket security.

Access to doctors sensitive to the concept of timely and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of cancer is essential to build an efficient system. The use of technologies such as telemedicine, teleradiology and telepathology can ensure that more women in remote communities have access to early diagnosis.

Molecular and genomic diagnostic tests can distinguish women who require chemotherapy treatment from those who do not, thus reducing complications due to unnecessary treatment in addition to the possible economic savings of making treatment resources more efficient.

Lastly, and just as importantly, a financial scheme that puts at the forefront the priority that our Mexican women are the engine of our country and deserve all the support and attention of the federal government and state health agencies.


Publisher’s Notes:

This column is part of the ‘The Future of Health’ serial .

Fernando Castilleja is an internist and an expert in lifestyle medicine and health innovation. Professor at the Tec de Monterrey School of Medicine for 20 years. Co-founder of NuupHealth and CEO of Genethic Services. Mentor Endeavor, McCombs Business School at UT Austin, HealthIDS and CONACYT Binational Innovation Nodes. Follow him on and/or on .

Juana Ramírez is founder, CEO and Chairwoman of Grupo SOHIN. President of the Warriors Foundation. Entrepreneur Endeavor. President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Entrepreneurs of Mexico. Author of the initiative “Medicine with M for Women”. University professor at UP and IPADE Business School. Follow her on and/or on .

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