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Bringing Modern Breast Cancer Care to Cambodia

  • October 5, 2010

When Voeun, a 37-year-old mother, arrived at an AmeriCares-supported hospital in Cambodia, she was running out of time and treatment options.

A neighbor had told Voeun about the hospital—the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE—and its commitment to provide care free-of-charge to those who cannot afford it. 

Married for 10 years, Voeun’s family lives on $2.00 a day in their aunt’s home with their five-year-old son because they cannot afford their own place. Most days, they eat only two small meals consisting of rice porridge. They are from a rural village nearly 80 miles from Cambodia’s capitol city, Phnom Penh.  Even basic health care is beyond their means. 

Like so many women in developing countries without access to breast cancer screening, Voeun only sought care when she had experienced severe symptoms—a high fever and a painful, infected tumor in her left breast.

Despite the excellent treatment she received, Voeun’s cancer had spread. The Hospital surgical team removed her cancerous tumor; sadly, her cancer had reached a terminal stage.  

More than eight out of ten women with breast cancer seeking treatment at the Center of HOPE have already progressed to advanced stages at the time of diagnosis. That’s why AmeriCares, AstraZeneca and the Center of HOPE are expanding their Breast Cancer Initiative, which was launched in 2008 to provide breast cancer screening and treatment for poor patients in Cambodia who lack other options.

“By expanding the program, we will provide the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE with the vital resources necessary to treat women diagnosed with breast cancer who would not otherwise be able to afford treatment.  We will also broaden our efforts to reach thousands more with breast cancer education, as studies have shown the importance of education and early detection in increasing survival rates,” said Dr. Frank Bia, medical director for AmeriCares. 

Read the Press Release >

For Voeun and other patients with terminal cancers, the Hospital provides palliative care to relieve pain and suffering. The care improves the quality of life for women like Voeun and their families during the final stage of the illness. 

The National Cancer Institute has shown that the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is 98% when detected at an early, localized stage. The Breast Cancer Initiative in Cambodia is already providing hundreds of women with educational materials, screening and treatment.

By extending the program through 2014, AmeriCares, AstraZeneca and Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE are increasing outreach and education efforts for patient and health care workers, raising awareness about breast cancer screening and the importance of early detection – a sure way to save lives of thousands of women like Voeun who lack access to critical health care. 

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