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Main » 2013 » October » 21 » Developing World Faces Breast Cancer Surge, Study Suggests
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Developing World Faces Breast Cancer Surge, Study Suggests
• Consumer awareness and cultural barriers surrounding screening putting lives at risk • 15 million years of ‘healthy life’ were lost worldwide in 2008 due to women dying early or being ill with the disease

ME NewsWire / Business Wire

CHALFONT ST. GILES, England - Tuesday, October 15th 2013

Rising breast cancer incidence and mortality represent a significant and growing threat for the developing world, according to a new global study commissioned by GE Healthcare.

Explained report co-author Bengt Jönsson, Professor in Health Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics: "Breast cancer is on the rise across developing nations, mainly due to the increase in life expectancy and lifestyle changes such as women having fewer children, as well as hormonal intervention such as post-menopausal hormonal therapy. In these regions mortality rates are compounded by the later stage at which the disease is diagnosed, as well as limited access to treatment, presenting a ’ticking time bomb’ which health systems and policymakers in these countries need to work hard to defuse.”

Need for better consumer education

The report on ‘the prevention, early detection and economic burden of breast cancer’ suggests that consumer understanding about breast cancer and screening methods is putting lives at risk in the developing world. For example, a recent survey1 in Mexico City indicated many women feel uncomfortable or worried about having a mammogram.

Commented Claire Goodliffe, Global Oncology Director for GE Healthcare: "It is of great concern that women in newly industrialized countries are reluctant to get checked out until it is too late. This is why GE is working with a number of governments and health ministries in these regions to expand access to screening and improve consumer awareness. Some of these initiatives are making excellent progress.”

Years of healthy life lost

The study draws some interesting conclusions about the impact of breast cancer on sufferers’ lives. According to the most recent published data, 15 million years of ‘healthy life’ were lost worldwide in 2008 due to women dying early or being ill with the disease2. ‘Healthy life lost’ is defined by years lost due to premature death and being incapacitated by the effects of breast cancer. Women in Africa, China and the USA lost the most years of healthy life. Furthermore, of the 15 million years lost globally, more than 3 times as many years were lost due to dying than being ill with the disease, For women in Africa, Russia, Mexico, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the number of healthy years lost due to death were up to 7 times3 greater than elsewhere in the world.

Said Bengt Jönsson: "The report findings suggest that a worryingly high proportion of women are still dying from breast cancer across the world and this seems to correlate strongly with access to breast screening programs and expenditure on healthcare.”

He went on to highlight the distinct lack of accurate and current data in areas like breast cancer incidence and mortality, the economic burden of the disease, and detailed patient-linked data on outcomes in relation to treatment patterns and stage of diagnosis. "This limits analyses of how changes in clinical practice affect patient outcomes and needs to be addressed,” he said.

As mortality falls, quality of life is an issue

As breast cancer incidence rates have steadily increased in developed countries over the last 50 years it is no surprise that the main focus of treatment has been survival. However as more women are now living with the disease, the report suggests that quality of life is becoming a growing issue as survival rates improve. As a result doctors are urged to focus on measuring the impact of diagnosis and treatment on survivors’ quality of life to identify what problems patients may have and how these can be mitigated.

Concluded Claire Goodliffe: "This report finds a direct link between survival rates in countries and the stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed. It provides further evidence of the need for early detection and treatment which we welcome given current controversies about the relative harms, benefits and cost effectiveness of breast cancer screening.”


Note to editors

1. About the report ‘Prevention, early detection and economic burden of breast cancer’

The report commissioned by GE Healthcare was authored by Bengt Jὃnsson Professor in Health Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics and Nils Wilking MD PhD who has been active in clinical oncology for 30 years after graduating from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

It was developed to provide insight into the global economic burden of breast cancer with particular focus on opportunities to reduce the burden through prevention and early detection.

2. Country/continent breakdown, years of healthy life lost due to death or disability (Disability Adjusted Life Years)





15, 127,050







2.8 :1
















France (metropolitan)





















Australia New Zealand






Saudi Arabia




3. GE Healthcare and early diagnosis

GE Healthcare’s commitment to health starts with promoting prevention, early detection and early diagnosis of disease. In parallel with GE’s global Healthymagination initiative, GE Healthcare campaigns around the world in specific disease areas and communities to promote better approaches to healthy living, whether at a personal level or at a public policy and general-population level. GE Healthcare advances every phase of patient care, from diagnostic imaging to routine testing to life-critical care. Through collaborations with partners and with customers, it regularly explores opportunities to deliver solutions that will influence improved outcomes, productivity, and quality.

4. GE Healthcare and oncology

In September 2011, GE Healthcare launched an ambitious global campaign against cancer, committing $1 billion of its total R&D budget over the next five years to expand its advanced cancer diagnostic and molecular imaging capabilities, as well as its world-class technologies for the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals and for cancer research. By the end of 2012, $335M had been invested, setting GE on track to meet its five-year commitment. To accelerate progress, and to deliver better care to 10 million patients by 2020, the campaign against cancer combines the unique strength of GE’s portfolio of cancer technologies with the innovations born from collaborations with key partners. These commitments uniquely position GE to drive game-changing impact in oncology and individualized cancer care.

5. GE Healthcare initiatives to raise awareness about the battle against cancer

GE Healthcare is running a number of online and social media campaigns throughout the year:

    The #GetFit competition, now in its 3rd year, encouraged individuals to share their healthy lifestyle choices on Twitter, Instagram, Weibo, Facebook and Pinterest using the #GetFit hashtag; reinforcing the importance of a positive healthy lifestyle in cancer prevention. The Company has been recognized with external industry awards for its #GetFit campaign.
    GE Healthcare’s Breast Cancer Mosaic site is a dedicated site created to share stories from breast cancer survivors, family members and physicians to increase awareness around breast cancer and to inspire those who are going through a difficult time.
    Through GE’s Cancer Pintherapy Board, cancer survivors, family members, and friends can remind cancer patients that they are not alone by providing inspiration to each other on Pinterest.
    Give a Little Beat is a musical initiative by GE Healthcare to connect people in the fight against breast cancer through the power of music and social media.
    In an effort to educate about the importance of asking questions for those diagnosed with cancer, and inform about how individualized cancer diagnostics and treatments can help drive positive outcomes, the Is My Cancer Different? site has been established as a resource.

About GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services to meet the demand for increased access, enhanced quality and more affordable healthcare around the world. GE (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter - great people and technologies taking on tough challenges. From medical imaging, software & IT, patient monitoring and diagnostics to drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies and performance improvement solutions, GE Healthcare helps medical professionals deliver great healthcare to their patients.

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1 Source: Webb, M. L., Cady, B., Michaelson, J. S., Bush, D. M., Calvillo, K. Z., Kopans, D. B. and Smith, B. L. (2013), A failure analysis of invasive breast cancer. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.2819, and Perry et al European guidelines for quality assurance in breast cancer screening and diagnosis: Fourth Edition

2 See figures in editors' note 2

3 See figures in editors’ note 2



GE Healthcare

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Sara Cruz, +44 207 526 3694




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