#WECAN14 – Changing the Face of Women’s Cancers in East Africa

Tune in to #WECAN14 Tweet chat 9/11/2014 at 11 am ET/10 am CT /8 am PT

Cancer kills more people in low- and middle-income countries than HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria combined and has already surpassed infectious diseases as the leading cause of death in many of these countries. Today, 70% of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, yet 1/3 of these cancers are preventable and an additional third can be detected and treated. 

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in East Africa; breast cancer is also a major cause of morbidity and mortality. This has been attributed in part to a lack of awareness regarding the benefits of detection and treatment and late stage diagnosis as well as access to care. Other barriers include stigma and simply not knowing cancer is survivable.

The Women’s Empowerment Cancer Advocacy Network (WE CAN) is changing this. WE CAN aims to make real and lasting change to prevent, treat and cure women’s cancers in low-resource settings by arming cancer advocates with information about breast and cervical cancer, linking them with other advocates and offering advocacy training to enable the success of their efforts. Through regional summits WE CAN builds networks and connect advocates, physicians, survivors, patients and policy makers in the belief that the power of individual survivor advocates is multiplied through supporting regional networks to facilitate the exchange of best practices, build capacity, influence public policy and social norm change and empower women leaders. 

The 2nd East Africa WE CAN Breast and Cervical Cancer Advocacy, Education and Outreach Summit will be held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Sept. 11-13, 2014. The 2014 Summit is co-sponsored by WE CAN at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance/University of Washington and the U.S. National Cancer Institute Center for Global Health in collaboration with local hosts WAMA and MEWATA. The Summit will bring together over 65 survivors, advocates, medical professionals, policy makers, government representatives, media and others from 10 countries. WE CAN advocacy training fosters capacity building, knowledge transfer and sharing of best practices in advocacy and outreach to dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer. Focusing on stigma reduction, cancer education, networking and capacity building are key to improving survivorship. The Summit is also an opportunity to capture the stories of advocates and survivors to help raise awareness about women’s cancers.

On Thursday September 11 from 6-7 pm (Tanzania time/ 11-12 EDT) WE CAN will host its first summit twitter chat to connect even more survivors! The chat, modelled after #BCSM will feature leading physicians and advocates from the US and East Africa including Dr. Julie Gralow (UW)  Dr. Jo Anne Zujewski (NCI), Dr. Bill Wood (Emory), Dr. Ophira Ginsburg (Toronto) and others. Topics for the chat will include: barriers to cancer detection and treatment; the impact of stigma on patients and their families and barriers faced by patient advocates. Participants are also encouraged to send #goodwill messages to #WECAN14 to be shared during the Summit on the following day.

WE CAN has been a global network for change since 2003. Headquartered at the UW School of Medicine and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, WE CAN aims to improve women’s health fostering the exchange of perspectives, resources, and strategies. To date, summits have been held in Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Uganda and Brazil. Advocacy and awareness-building are an integral step in curbing the emerging trend of breast cancer as a significant health threat to women worldwide.  




Ann Fonfa

Date: 9 Sep, 2014

I often correspond with people from Africa who would be EXTREMELY interested in this event. How can they get involved, who should they contact? Thanks. I am the founder of nonprofit Annie Appleseed Project providing information on natural strategies for cancer.

Julie Gralow

Date: 9 Sep, 2014

Hi Ann - Thanks for your interest. We're in Dar es Salaam at present, in day 2 of the WE CAN East Africa conference. Our director of global oncology, Allison Dvaladze, coordinates our WE CAN activities in both East Africa and Eastern Europe/Central Asia. She can be reached at wecan@uw.edu. Julie