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Fight Against Breast Cancer Gains Ground in Cambodia

  • October 14, 2011

AmeriCares Program Expands Reach, Helps More Women in Need

In 2006, when Hem Knoll found a lump in her right breast, it was another tragic turn in a life already shattered by a diagnosis of HIV and the death of her husband, from whom she had contracted the virus. The 45-year-old schoolteacher was determined to seek treatment. During the next year, Knoll endured a heartbreaking ordeal too common in countries like Cambodia, where a large percentage of people do not have access to health care. Alone and impoverished, Knoll was repeatedly turned away by every hospital she visited because of her HIV-positive status.  She began to lose hope.Her fortune changed when she learned about the AmeriCares-sponsored Breast Cancer Program at the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE in Phnom Penh. This program offers Cambodia’s only free treatment and screening program, and it is operated by one of the few hospitals in the country that offers care to HIV-positive patients.Doctors immediately removed Knoll’s tumor, initiated a course of drug therapy that included cancer medication donated by AmeriCares, and enrolled her in the hospital’s free lifelong HIV treatment program.  Four years later, Knoll remains cancer-free. She makes a monthly 8-hour journey to receive follow-up care at the hospital, confident that she will receive highquality care and be treated with respect. She also has learned to self-screen and regularly examines her healthy breast for early signs of cancer.

Fight Against Breast Cancer Gains Ground in Cambodia

Photo Courtesy of Sihanouk Hospital Center of HopeCrucial Progress Brings New HopeLaunched in 2008, the Breast Cancer Program is a comprehensive initiative designed to raise patient awareness, improve early detection, and increase survival rates, while at the same time training and building capacity among local medical practitioners.  These multiple program components are particularly lifesaving in Cambodia, where an alarming number of women die each year as a result of breast cancer, often due to lack of awareness, limited screening opportunities, and the high cost of treatmentIn the past three years, the Program has accomplished several noteworthy achievements, such as providing:

  • 4,200 women with Khmer-language educational materials on early detection,
  • 430 pathology tests
  •  300 diagnostic procedures
  • 192 patients with surgical treatment, hormonal therapy and/or palliative care

In the coming years, AmeriCares has committed to significantly expand its annual donations of funding and breast cancer medications with the goal of enabling the Program to further increase treatment options, patient outreach, and targeted training of physicians and nurses.“By expanding the program, we are providing the hospital with vital resources necessary to care for women diagnosed with breast cancer who could not otherwise afford treatment,” said Dr. Frank Bia, Medical Director for AmeriCares. “Studies show that education and early detection increase survival rates – something we hope we are accomplishing by broadening our outreach efforts.”Donate Now