Prof. Dr. Enrique Estrada-Lobato, IAEA Nuclear Medicine Physician. In this video, he speaks about the IAEA’s Support of breast cancer screening along the Amazon River. He also introduces the IAEA's six decades of experience in helping countries use nuclear techniques to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
Women in Amazon River villages will have better access to breast cancer screening starting this year, owing to two new mammography devices deployed on Brazilian navy ships delivering crucial health services along South America's longest waterway. The two devices carried onboard the ships Soares de Meirelles and Carlos Chagas, procured by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will treble the present capacity for such testing in distant locations. Soares de Meirelles began the first of several long voyages scheduled along the river in 2022 last month.
Breast cancer accounts for over 30% of all cancers in Brazil, with roughly 40% of patients only being diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease. Screening is used to detect malignancies at an early stage when it is most effective to treat them. The first stage of screening includes a breast X-ray (mammogram). Each ship can now perform up to 1000 such screenings every year thanks to the two new units.
This year, the two newly outfitted ships will go on eight planned 45-day voyages. They will travel from the Amazon River delta to the borders of Colombia, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela, whose populations could benefit from similar services as well. Because of their construction, navy ships can negotiate the river's narrow and shallow waters, bringing much-needed healthcare directly to women living along its banks.
Previously, women in the Amazon River region could only obtain mammography services by traveling to the nearest health center, which could take several days. Women in Tabatinga, near the borders with Peru and Colombia, for example, had to travel 1,600 kilometers over seven days to acquire such screening services at the healthcare center in Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
Through the IAEA Technical Cooperation program, the two mammography systems were purchased and deployed on the ships in 2021. The Agency also provided cash for staff operating the equipment to be trained.