The Globalization and Health journal published an article in 2019 that assesses early breast cancer screening in sub-Saharan Africa. The research presented by authors Eleanor Black and Robyn Richmond examines mammography, clinical examination, and self-examination to provide a cost-benefit analysis for early detection practices. Based on their findings, Black and Richmond conclude that breast cancer screening options need to be more affordable in order to benefit the community.
There is a need to revise programs for early breast cancer detection so that women in sub-Saharan Africa have the ability to self-monitor and know when to seek clinical care for an early diagnosis. Mammography, as the most expensive method of screening, is found to be scarce in economically developing nations, and should not be depended on for early detection. Black and Richmond aim to increase early detection by the use of alternative practices grounded on education.
With its profound global impact, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Efforts are being made to prevent and control the disease with early detection as a critical step. Regular physical exams, recognizing family history, and mammography screening every two years after the age of 40, are some of the ways medical professionals advise women to take precautions.
Though adhering to these recommendations are important, they are costly; economically developing nations lack the financial resources to make early detection programs widely available. The ‘traditional’ perspective of breast cancer as ‘a disease of high-income countries,’ stems from delayed incidence reporting. Many women who live in low-income countries are susceptible to prolonged diagnoses, because pre-emptive screening options are either not brought to their attention, or too expensive to access.
In sub-Saharan Africa, made up of economically developing nations, breast cancer is a public health issue. Despite having a lower incidence rate than higher-income countries, the mortality rate is greater. This underscores the misconception that breast cancer affects high-income countries more.
One cause of a higher mortality rate is the delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. Women trust mammography screening, but implementing this process poses a financial strain on low-income countries such as those within the sub-Saharan African region. Without providing education regarding other options such as self-examination and clinical-examination, women are only motivated to seek medical help once their symptoms have worsened. Late-stage diagnoses result from this delay with chances of survival reduced.
Shifting financial resources towards awareness campaigns and education is one proposed solution to promote the importance of early breast cancer detection. Black and Richmond advocate to emphasize self and clinical examination rather than mammography. This would require resources to be directed towards accessible learning opportunities and professional guidance, so that sub-Saharan African women are equipped with the knowledge to make healthy lifestyle changes for prevention, and recognize early onset symptoms.