It’s a staggering figure. Two-thirds of all women forego regular breast cancer screenings due to a lack of access to the appropriate facilities—be it up-to-date imaging technology, trained medical professionals or both. Put another way, just a third of the world’s women have access to such technology and medical expertise, particularly in rural and underdeveloped areas of the globe, including sparsely populated states in the United States. And that’s to say nothing of the lack of awareness, or fear, about what is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
As part of GE’s billion-dollar initiative to accelerate innovation in the fight against cancer—and three-year partnership with Susan. G Komen for the Cure—the company is hoping to help change that ratio, and help clinicians reach more women where they live through a series of collaborations with local governments, NGO’s and local healthcare providers who can help mobilize efforts on the ground in each region.
The first group of these programs will be launched in Wyoming, Saudi Arabia, Australia and China with the goal of expanding access to mammography screening and breast cancer technology.
In Wyoming, GE is teaming up with Shared Medical Services, a mobile health expert firm that takes an innovative approach to mobile mammography—leveraging social media channels such as Facebook for outreach to women—and several in-state organizations to address the challenges associated with being one of the most rural states in America. In Wyoming, women live, on average, 70 miles away from their health care providers. GE hopes to replicate the Wyoming effort in other rural areas in the U.S. and globally.
In Saudi Arabia, GE has joined forces with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health, and will deploy two mobile screening units in Riyadh City in October with the goal of screening 10,000 women within the first 12 months. GE will also be reaching out to universities to launch an open innovation challenge for Saudi women in an effort to identify sustainable methods for improving breast cancer screening in the country.
In China, where the number of breast cancer cases is growing 3 to 4 percent a year, GE is working on a broad outreach program to raise breast cancer awareness, with a focus on educating women on the importance of early diagnosis and early treatment. The program will launch later this year in the Guangdong Province and will target both rural and urban regions, aiming to reach 120 million women.
GE has also committed to providing training for doctors in rural Chinese villages and to help improve screening rates and accuracy of diagnosis.
In Australia, where one in nine women develop breast cancer before the age of 85, GE is working with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute and Medica to increase access to advanced breast cancer screening technologies. The newly-formed Australian Cancer Advisory Board and BreastScreen Australia plans to install 500 GE digital mammography systems for use across Queensland. GE is also initiating a research study with the Aussie Economist Intelligence Unit that will analyze the disparity between Australia’s high number of screenings and high number of deaths from breast cancer.