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Battling Breast Cancer in Cambodia

  • December 12, 2006
 Waiting Area in a Clinic in Cambodia
 Waiting area in a Cambodian clinic

A diagnosis of breast cancer is scary for any woman.  But imagine being a woman in Cambodia, where the number of physicians is estimated at a dismal 16 for every 100,000 citizens, and where the cost of even basic medication is beyond the reach of most people.

AmeriCares is working with partner Hope Worldwide to support increased access to quality health care in Cambodia.  Just recently, AmeriCares has begun supplying medication to support breast cancer treatments at the Sihanouk Center of Hope Hospital in Phnom Phen.  This facility, operated by Hope Worldwide, delivers free medical care to almost 700,000 Cambodians living in Phnom Penh and its outlying areas. 

The Sihanouk Center of Hope is one of only a few hospitals providing a continuum of care for breast cancer patients.  The staff of Sihanouk’s Oncology Clinic includes a team of internationally trained physicians, including a surgeon specializing in cancer surgery and a haemato-pathologist specializing in the treatment of malignant lymphoma and leukemia.  The Center of Hope also has a comprehensive pathology laboratory, the only one in Cambodia providing hormone receptor analysis; and a mammogram and ultrasound machine for basic breast cancer screening. 

While there are currently no accurate figures for breast cancer prevalence in Cambodia, amongst patients at Sihanouk’s oncology clinic it is the most common type of cancer. The Center of Hope treats an average of 20 new breast cancer patients each year and provides on-going treatment to an additional 48 patients. 

In October, AmeriCares delivered a shipment of 65 cases of breast cancer medicines to Hope Worldwide’s Sihanouk Center of Hope. The AmeriCares donation is enough to serve their patient population – including 20 anticipated new patients – for the course of a year.

“As most of these patients are very poor and can often not afford radiotherapy or chemo therapy, this medicine is their only hope for prolonged survival,” says Dr. Cornelia Haener of the Sihanouk Center of Hope.  “The donation alleviates the financial burden of these women and families.”

Walter Kotkowski, procurement officer for Hope Worldwide, seconds the 

 Three Generations of Cambodian Women
 Three generations of Cambodian Women

importance of the AmeriCares donation. “It would not have been possible for us to operate at the capacity we are operating at without these medicines and supplies and without this shipping assistance,” he notes. 

“To think about how much money we would have had to spend — it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our program in Cambodia wouldn’t be where it is now without this partnership.”

AmeriCares has been partnering with Hope Worldwide for nearly 10 years, and in that time has delivered humanitarian aid valued at $86 million.