Krebsallianz donates Paclitaxel to Breast Cancer Patients in Low Income Countries.
Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women worldwide. In countries with advanced medical care the five-year survival of early stage breast cancers is 80–90 per cent, falling to 24 per cent for breast cancers diagnosed at a more advanced stage. Breast cancer sufferers living in countries with under developed health care systems, low income and high rates of poverty stand much less chance against the disease.
The medical infrastructure in countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Moldova do not enjoy the same benefits as middle to high income countries. They lack the funding to establish awareness raising campaigns. Education and awareness are essential in the prevention against cancer. Awareness campaigns can educate people on how to recognise symptoms and help doctors diagnose the disease sooner.
Education campaigns are a vital resource to share knowledge about certain lifestyle risks that can lead to cancer. They also help patients understand the disease better and debunk the myth that cancer is an immediate death sentence.
The two main reasons for higher breast cancer death rates in such regions are late stage diagnosis and limited access to treatment. Other factors include lack of awareness regarding early detection, prevention and treatment. With numbers of breast cancer survivors growing, nobody need suffer because they lack access to treatment.
If breast cancer is diagnosed early enough patients have very good chances with the right treatments to live an extended life. Many people believe that cancer is a disease of affluence, however this is simply a myth. In 2012, WCRF data shows that slightly more cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in less developed countries (53%).
Incidence numbers show little difference, so why should rates of survival and access to treatment belong to wealthier more developed areas? (2) It is also the leading cause of death in women and it has been estimated that 5.8 million women worldwide will die from it by 2025. (1,2,6) A large number of these deaths will occur in less developed regions. At Krebsallianz we believe that just because someone is poor they shouldn't be denied treatment.
Marie Lidia Sanchez de Martinez - El Salvador
In rural El Salvador, health care is not easily accessed. Educational campaigns, access to good quality medicines concerning issues like breast cancer awareness, are virtually non-existent. Maria and her family did not fully understand the dangers of waiting. Marie has always been poor, her and her large family live in a peaceful mountainous area.
Her husband makes four dollars working on a nearby hacienda. The nearest doctor is a long bus ride away in the nearest town. When her breast began to feel tender she made her way to the doctors and after three days travelling back and forth, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Maria was put on a treatment waiting list, she was unaware of the dangers of waiting for treatment and four months passed before she returned to the doctors to find out more. The cancer had advanced significantly and she needed treatment immediately.
She began chemotherapy, with the objective to reduce the tumor size and the inflammation before continuing on to the surgery phase. The long 5 hour trips to San Salvador were taking their toll on her.
Marie was one of the lucky patients to receive the Krebsallianz donation of Paclitaxel. After eight sessions of chemotherapy she has seen changes in her breast and soon she could undergo surgery to prevent the cancer returning.
Marie is most eloquent. “I am grateful” she states, “we are practically penniless, yet I am being treated at a hospital by doctors who have been kind and good to me. I have been given medicines for treating cancer that I could never pay for. I feel so much better than I thought I ever would again and I think I will get well. Thank you.”
Blanca Ballestillon Ramirez La Libertad, El Salvador
Blanca grew up poor in El Salvador, she has four children and makes her living selling empanadas on the street. After a diagnosis of breast cancer a few years previous Blanca was given a mastectomy.
The cancer was aggressive and after her surgery she was prescribed twenty-five radiation treatments and nine chemotherapy treatments. The usually stoic Blanca was exhausted, afraid and practically penniless.
Her tiny home, made of tin siding, was all she had. Her children helped with expenses when they could but they had few resources. For Blanca, every radiation and chemotherapy treatment she received, meant more money spent for transportation. She was suffering from extreme side effects and could not cook or sell empanadas to earn the money for the bus trips to San Salvador.
Blanca had completed five chemotherapy sessions already and was scheduled to begin her following treatments with the new donated Paclitaxel.
She and her doctors were hopeful that the Paclitaxel would result in more aggressive progress fighting her cancer and with lessened side effects. “I trust in God and am very thankful for these new donations,” Blanca said “I’m grateful for these doctors and the medication is a new blessing from heaven.”
Vilma Galindo Honduras Vilma was living a simple life in La Ceiba when she became ill. Located on the northern coast of Honduras, it is an important port, although most of the locals are poor. Vilma was no different. She made her tiny income by selling used clothes in the street markets and to people she knew. Raising three children alone, she was never free of financial worries. Around five years ago Vilma felt a lump in her breast. She was wrongly diagnosed and given antibiotics. Her condition worsened and Vilma made the long trip to Tegucigalpa where she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Typically underfunded, the hospital had no way to help. They assigned her case as late stage and terminal, with no available options to combat the disease. Luckily for Vilma, she was staying with her sister, Sandra, who lived in Tegucigalpa. On Sandra’s recommendation, Vilma contacted a private hospital, Hospital Emma Romero, which also has a very active program serving low-income patients with cancer.
The staff at Emma Romero took Vilma in - and immediately scheduled a mastectomy.
After the surgery, she was scheduled to come back for follow-up testing and to assess her ongoing treatment.
Vilma was unaware of the dangers of neglecting breast cancer treatment. The doctors didn’t see Vilma until four years later after Vilma collapsed and was rushed to her local hospital. The news hit hard, the cancer had spread to her brain and lungs.
At that time, the program for low-income patients had just received a donation of Paclitaxel from Krebsallianz. Vilma received this high quality very effective chemotherapy. Her response was dramatic and swift.
She received five cycles and experienced a tremendous improvement. Her doctors ordered radiation cycles directly following the chemotherapy. With this combination treatment, her brain tumor completely disappeared!
Vilma says, “It was like a miracle, I thought I had lost my mind – I couldn’t even walk!” Vilma lives with her sister and her oldest son, Ricardo. He is bright and motivated, trying to find a scholarship into college and very devoted to his mother.
Vilma is grateful for the aid she has received. “The Paclitaxel saved my life. I couldn’t function and was dying. I had no money. This drug and the kindness of the staff at Emma Romero mean the world to me. I can never repay or forget this.”
Raissa Rosca, Moldova With a big smile on her face, Raissa begins to tell us her story, she is optimistic and proud of how far she has come. It began 5 years ago, Raissa was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her treatment included a double mastectomy, 6 rounds of doxorubicin and 27 rounds of radiotherapy. After 2 years of remission she was feeling much better, Raissa’s cancer had returned and metastasised. The cancer had spread to her chest cavity, lower back, vertebraie, lungs and three lymph nodes. Raissa works for the government and acknowledges that she isn’t the poorest of people, but her modest salary was definitely not enough to buy adequate medicines to treat such a fast spreading and malicious cancer. "When she heard that the hospital was about to receive a donation of paclitaxel from Krebsallianz and she was to be treated with it, she said, “it felt like a gift from God…I never even dreamt of being able to afford this medicine." We meet Raissa on the day she is to receive her fourth round of the paclitaxel treatment. Already after the first session she knew this was going to be a success story. Before her recent test results, she knew she was doing better. The results showed that the cancer had been eliminated from two of the three lymph nodes and was only very small in the final one.
The cancer has not spread further and has been reduced enormously throughout her body. With such great results, she is certain that after the three more scheduled treatments, the cancer will be completely gone. “My body takes very well to this drug, much better than before. For this I would not only like to say one big Thank you to the donor, but many many thanks to everybody who helped this happen” The support offered by Krebsallianz through the donation from AqVida has been very much needed and greatly appreciated. Speaking of her positive recovery has energised her and as she leaves to turns to us to express her eternal thanks. “I cannot say it enough, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!”