Making breast cancer a priority in Morocco

The challenge

Limited resources, limited public awareness of the disease and the country’s mountainous geography make screening women for breast cancer in Morocco very challenging. Regular screening is vital for detecting breast cancer at an early stage. When breast cancer is treated before it has spread to other parts of the body, it is potentially curable.

What we’re doing

Roche was the first official partner of the Moroccan patient organisation, “La Fondation Lalla Salma” (the Lalla Salma Foundation) when it was set up in 2005. Over the last decade Roche has supported many campaigns led by the Foundation to make cancer a public health priority in Morocco. Below are some of the ways that we have been working with the Foundation and other organisations to relieve the burden of breast cancer across the country:

  • “Octobre Rose”: Every year, a three-week period in October and November (22 November is a national day for the fight against cancer in Morocco) is dedicated to breast cancer awareness and national efforts are made to improve breast cancer screening rates. In 2013, a multi-channel campaign sponsored by several institutions, including Roche Morocco, and conducted by the Lalla Salma Foundation saw TV, radio, billboard and internet initiatives promote the importance of detecting breast cancer early. The campaign was driven with support from multiple celebrities and well-known brands. Roche Morocco changed the face of its office building to display the pink ribbon symbol of breast cancer awareness and employees participated in a relay marathon race in aid of breast cancer. Over the course of three weeks, over 386,000 women were screened in health centres across the country; 94% of these women were screened for the first time.
  • The breast cancer trucks: People living in Morocco’s remote areas do not have easy access to breast cancer screening facilities. For many, breast cancer is diagnosed too late or not at all. In an attempt to overcome this, Roche Morocco sponsors a programme that sends mobile mammography trucks into Morocco’s rural areas and offers free screening to women in difficult-to-reach regions.
  • Continuous training for healthcare professionals: An on-going preceptorship programme with a major European cancer hospital ensures that Moroccan physicians stay up-to-date with the latest medical advances in oncology.
  • HER2 testing: Roche Morocco is donating HER2 tests to the scientific society for anatomical pathologists in order to improve access to specialised breast cancer diagnostic tools.
  • Treatment access programme: Roche Morocco provides funding for a patient access programme coordinated by the Lalla Salma Foundation and participating health centres. The programme provides therapies to indigent women who cannot afford to pay for breast cancer treatment.

Our impact

We hope that, through continued collaboration with the Lalla Salma Foundation, the Ministry of Health and scientific societies, we will continue to improve breast cancer screening rates in Morocco so that more patients are diagnosed at an early stage when the disease is potentially curable. For those women who are diagnosed, we hope that our contributions and the work of the Lalla Salma Foundation will help support equal access to treatment.