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By Thuan An
In 2016, while working at Duc Giang Garment Company, Hong took part in a free breast cancer screening program. The woman collapsed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a surgery to remove the left breast’s tissue, she had to quit her job for cancer treatment.
Hong is just one of thousands of women across Vietnam that have joined the breast cancer screening campaign launched by the Supportive Fund for Cancer Patients – Bright Future, with the sponsorship of Roche Vietnam. After four years of treatment, her health has improved significantly. She is luckier than many other breast cancer patients as her illness was detected in the early stage, resulting in better treatment and a higher survival rate.
Breast cancer has become increasingly popular in Vietnam, with some 15,000 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Breast cancer is treatable if detected early. While early detection will lead to more effective treatment and lower cost, over a third of Vietnamese breast cancer patients die of the disease due to late detection.
Public awareness about breast cancer in Vietnam is still low and only 10% of Vietnamese women undertake regular breast cancer screening.
To help raise public awareness about breast cancer and improve breast cancer diagnosis in the country, in 2013, healthcare company Roche Vietnam collaborated with the Ministry of Health and the Supportive Fund for Cancer Patients – Bright Future to launch the “We care for her” campaign, which was later renamed “Joining hands for her”.
The campaign focuses on raising awareness about the importance of frequent screening and offering free screening tests for women. In the breast cancer awareness month in October every year, coaches painted in pink carry doctors and nurses to cities and provinces across the country, especially remote and rural areas, to provide local women with free breast screening tests. The pink ribbon, and the color pink in general, is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness.
Moreover, a series of talks are hosted at hospitals and public venues to provide the right knowledge and understanding of breast cancer, where experts also instruct on how to detect cancer in the early stages and effectively prevent breast cancer and answer all concerns related to the disease.
A representative of Roche Vietnam said the organizers faced many difficulties when the campaign was commenced in 2013. At that time, many people felt embarrassed when talking about cancers, especially breast cancer, while communication channels about breast cancer were unreliable. Vietnam also lacked a national program for breast cancer prevention and treatment and breast cancer screening was not included in health insurance.
To reach people from all walks of life, the campaign features a wide range of activities, from songs about breast cancer awareness to inspiring stories shared on newspapers and the social media, walking events, and lighting up high-rises in Hanoi and HCMC with pink lights.
Speaking at the launching ceremony of the "Joining hands for her" 2020 campaign, which was held at K Hospital in Thanh Tri District, Hanoi on October 18, Girish Mulye, chief representative of Roche in Vietnam, said: “As a global pioneer in the pharmaceutical sector, Roche is committed to joining hands with Vietnam to solve challenges in healthcare through various activities. Accompanying the Bright Future Fund in this breast cancer awareness and screening program is one bright example of our commitment.”
During the campaign, the Bright Future Fund coordinates with hospitals in nine provinces and cities throughout Vietnam such as Vinh Phuc, Bac Ninh, Ha Nam, Nam Dinh and HCMC to offer free screening tests to 5,000 women until November 15.
Over the past seven years, Roche Vietnam has joined hands with the campaign to offer free breast screening tests to more than 72,000 women, train over 600 breast cancer experts and establish five breast cancer patient clubs, where the patients can network, support each other and share their stories.
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