Even though we have made great strides in the fight against breast cancer, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with the disease and 6,85,00 fatalities caused globally in 2020. If breast cancer is diagnosed early, treatment can be very successful, with survival probability of 90% or higher. In order to ensure that women are directed for a diagnosis at the early stage, public education about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer must be supplemented with training for health professionals.
In partnership with Roche Bangladesh, ASTHA trains community paramedics as first responders to detect suspected breast cancer patients and establish a referral system with qualified diagnostic and medical facilities. In Sylhet and Sunamganj districts, 50 Community Paramedics (10 men and 40 women) were educated and trained on early breast cancer identification. Additionally, ASTHA also facilitates the Community Paramedic Training Institutes (CPTIs) in setting up scientific seminars with the goal of enhancing graduate CPs' service delivery and providing them with advanced knowledge. As October marks the Breast Cancer Awareness month, ASTHA in collaboration with RTMI- a Sylhet-based community paramedic training institute, hosted a scientific seminar on breast cancer on October 16, 2022. 20 women graduate CPs attended the scientific lecture and learned about risk factors of breast cancer, process of BSE (Breast Self-Examination) or screening of early signs, diagnosis, prevention of the disease and nearby referral centers.
Currently, in both Sylhet and Sunamganj districts, CPs are providing services to the patients by recording their symptoms and utilizing referral links with the appropriate hospitals and doctors for quality treatment. So far, community paramedics in Sylhet area have identified 10 women with signs and symptoms of breast cancer and referred them to the local hospitals for advanced care. Furthermore, with an aim to raise awareness in rural and suburban regions, ASTHA and Roche assisted 15 local NGO volunteers in teaching rural women and adolescent girls about early indicators of breast cancer. As a result, roughly 400 schoolgirls and 3000 rural women have been sensitized through courtyard gatherings and door-to-door counseling. Women who received knowledge on breast cancer know how to spot the early signs and symptoms and where to go for a diagnosis after detecting breast cancer.
This project is financed by Novartis, the Evi Diethelm Winteler Stiftung, the Laguna Foundation, the Leopold Bachmann Stiftung, among other donors. As part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, it is co-financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA).