ACCRA, Ghana, October 17 /PRNewswire/ --

- Steps Under Way to Address Issues Causing High Breast Cancer Death Rates Among African Women

Susan G. Komen for the Cure(R) today expanded its mission to Africa, helping to establish the Ghana Breast Cancer Alliance at an international symposium attended by leading breast cancer experts from around the world. Ghana First Lady Theresa Kufuor welcomed participants and praised the partner organizations for their collaboration and commitment to helping the women of Ghana.


The symposium was the opening event of an intensive, four-day mission delegation trip to Ghana, just one of several low- to middle-income countries Komen for the Cure's international program will address with the goal of helping to reduce the high rates of breast cancer mortality.

"Practicing culturally sensitive, practical healthcare diplomacy in Ghana is our first priority," said Susan G. Komen for the Cure President and CEO Hala Moddelmog. "By increasing public education and awareness as well as acceptance of early detection practices, we hope to reach women at the earliest stage of the disease when treatment is most successful."

Moddelmog is leading the Komen mission delegation that includes physicians, researchers, advocates, survivors and celebrities, including actress Gabrielle Union, philanthropist Malaak Rock, wife of comedian Chris Rock, and breast cancer survivor and activist Billye Aaron, the wife of baseball great Hank Aaron.

Helping Ghana in building capacity and putting infrastructure in place to treat breast cancer is the first commitment of Komen in Africa. This commitment was affirmed at a press conference following the symposium in Accra where Moddelmog announced the organization's largest international grant of US$250,000 to help launch the Ghana Breast Cancer Alliance.

Breast Cancer in Ghana: A Complex Mix of Challenges

Symposium attendees from around the world will learn about the complex mix of issues that currently stand in the way of Ghanaian women receiving needed breast health and breast cancer care. For instance:

-- Screening mammography is virtually unheard of and nearly 70 percent of Ghanaian women who eventually report their breast cancer symptoms are in the advanced stages of the disease, when survival is doubtful. Widespread and harsh social stigma surrounding breast cancer leads many Ghanaian women to hide their breast cancer symptoms, to avoid being shunned or divorced by their husbands and sent back to their families of origin.

-- Mastectomy alone is usually the only treatment available for Ghanaian women with breast cancer. Without follow-up treatments including chemotherapy or radiation, the approach reinforces widely-held beliefs that if a woman reports her breast cancer, "they will cut off her breast and she will die anyway."

-- Read-outs on breast pathology reports typically take from four to six months to complete.

Sensitive, Gradual Approach Needed

Dr. Benjamin O. Anderson, director of the Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI), co-founded and co-sponsored by Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, called the international symposium and the other delegation activities planned during the week "good preparation for what lies down the road; namely, a potential breast cancer tsunami."

Anderson added that while BHGI, Komen and experts from around the world are assisting Ghana, Ghanaians will be formulating measures and carrying them out in ways that are culturally, politically and economically acceptable. Anderson said the first milestone to reach is acceptance among the Ghanaian population of the importance of early breast cancer detection.

Moddelmog cited the importance of the Ghana Breast Cancer Alliance as a driving force that can change the country's prevailing attitudes about breast cancer.

"Ghana is poised to make significant improvements, particularly if it promotes early detection and improves awareness that breast cancer can be treatable-and curable-if it is caught in the early stages," she said. "The Ghana Breast Cancer Alliance offers a consistent opportunity to effectively advance this goal."

The International Breast Cancer Symposium was presented by Komen and co-hosted by the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Ghana Breast Cancer Alliance, the Breast Health Global Initiative and HopeXChange. Speakers at the Symposium included Moddelmog, Anderson, Dr. Beatrice Wiafe Addai, Breast Care International (Ghana), Dr. Alexandru Eniu, Cancer Institute Ion Chiricuta (Romania), Dr. Riccardo Masetti, Catholic University of Rome Medical Center (Italy), Dr. Lisa Newman, University of Michigan (USA), Dr. J Clegg-Lamptey, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (Ghana), Dr. Baffour Awuah, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (Ghana),

Tomorrow, Ghana President John Kufuor will dedicate the new state-of-the-art Kumasi-based HopeXChange Medical Center. The Center will host the first Learning Laboratory of the BHGI that will educate physicians and public health workers about the importance of early detection. Funding for the laboratory was provided by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Global Promise Fund.

About Susan G. Komen for the Cure(R)

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure(R), we have invested more than US$1.2 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world. For more information about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, breast health or breast cancer, visit or call 1-877 GO KOMEN.

Web site:

Julie Bernstein, +1-240-601-5562,, or Emily Callahan, +1-972-855-1607,, both of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; Photo: NewsCom: , AP Archive: , PRN Photo Desk,