National breast cancer education program targets rural women

December 1, 1997

Pharmaceutical Representative

Educating rural women about the need for early breast cancer detection was the special focus of the 11th Annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, observed in October.

Educating rural women about the need for early breast cancer detection was the special focus of the 11th Annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, observed in October.

Compared with urban women, rural women are less likely to comply with physician recommendations to have regular mammograms and use less preventive health services. According to a poll by Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, one of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month's original sponsors, more than one-third of rural women do not practice breast self-examination or receive clinical breast exams.

Bob Woods, president of Zeneca's agricultural products division, said of this year's mission: "For the last 11 years, the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month program has served as an excellent reminder to women that early detection and regular screening saves lives. But while those important messages have reached women in big cities, women in rural areas may not have as extensive exposure to health information, and they aren't taking advantage of ways they can reduce their risks of developing breast cancer."

The main thrust of the rural outreach effort was a special workshop in which women with ties to agri-business communities were trained to be "ambassadors" of breast cancer awareness information. Female family members of Zeneca's agricultural division's top customers, referred to as "Executive Club Spouses," were among those invited to attend the workshop.

Breast cancer is the leading cancer diagnosed in American women. More than 180,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and almost 44,000 die from the disease. Experts believe that one in three of those 44,000 would be saved if their cancers were detected earlier.

Founding member

Zeneca has been heavily involved with breast cancer education since the early 1980s. In fact, the idea for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was hatched in the fall of 1985 when the Wilmington, DE-based company and New York-based Cancer Care Inc. testified before a congressional committee about the need for widespread access to mammography. The two organizations also distributed brochures and spoke to news reporters for one week in October. The program has since served as a model of collaborative health promotion, according to Karen L. Miller, Zeneca's group manager of communications, oncology.

"The program has the support of all of Zeneca, not just the pharmaceuticals division," Miller explained. "We take the program to all of our stakeholders and we encourage the reps to get involved and get their customers involved."

Recent reports of declines in breast cancer mortality have been attributed to greater public awareness of the importance of early detection.

"Collectively, we can all take some credit for the declines in mortality," Miller said.

For more information on National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit the program's Web site at http://www.nb cam.org. PR

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