At this meeting actually what I’m talking about is what the ABC Global Alliance is all about, its objectives to improve the quality of life of people living with advanced breast cancer and also ultimately to find a cure for advanced breast cancer. It’s a global organisation; the projects we are doing are mostly all over the world. It is a registered organisation and it has been registered in Portugal. The Chairman, Dr Fatima Cardoso, she is stationed in Portugal itself. The rest of us who are board members, we are from different parts of the world. My role is actually to be in charge of low and middle income countries when it comes to issues surrounding advanced breast cancer.
What issues surrounding advanced breast cancer does the ABC Global Alliance aim to address?
We have a charter of ten goals and one of them is, of course, a very daunting area, it’s the stigma attached to advanced breast cancer, particularly in society. So we have campaigns to try and sensitise society and the public about advanced breast cancer, that people can live a life of quality after advanced breast cancer if they are given appropriate treatment and they are well treated by society. Whether it is in the neighbourhood, whether it is as a mother or even as a father, and also in terms of living life, like having a job, after being diagnosed with breast cancer and getting advanced breast cancer.
Those are some of the areas and other areas are also to provide education for those who are working in this area – to have a web series of talks on issues surrounding advanced breast cancer, whether it is in the area of treatment or managing side effects or it could even be access to treatment for advanced breast cancer.
Do these issues vary by country?
The issues definitely vary from country to country, from region to region and also the issue of access is one of the most obvious issues that comes in low and middle income countries. So those are the areas that we sometimes focus on a lot in our campaigns which we have for educating the public. These are YouTube videos which are put on the website and people can watch them. Say, for example, to do with the issue of advanced breast cancer and, in the case of advanced breast cancer, people believe that there is no need for treatment. There are also authorities that believe why should we spend money on this person, she’s going to die anyway.
So that’s the stigma and to fight that stigma the person herself or himself who has advanced breast cancer is alive and needs to live life and is able to say, ‘You need to treat me as well. I should not be marginalised just because I have advanced breast cancer. I should be given access to treatment.’
What can be done to improve support for advanced breast cancer patients in Vietnam?
Besides Vietnam or other countries similar to Vietnam, particularly Asian and African countries, we find that the number of people living after breast cancer, the majority of them, or more than half of them, are people with advanced breast cancer. So those are daunting issues. Sometimes the focus is more on what can we do in early breast cancer but what about advanced breast cancer? You still need to focus on that as well because if you are more than 50% either first time getting advanced breast cancer or the disease recurs and becomes an advanced breast cancer later on, this is the group of people that needs to be taken care of. It is important to invest in them as well because after treatment they can still continue to live productive lives.
What were the conclusions from your talk?
The conclusion from my talk was to enable everybody to understand and also be on the same page that we need to fight for the quality of life for advanced breast cancer patients to improve their quality of life as well as to make sure that we advocate for a cure for advanced breast cancer. So that’s the conclusion that I came up with.