Unlocking access in Colombia

In Colombia, timely diagnosis and early referral to specialists is critical for cancer patients. In a country where healthcare services are still being developed, improving the speed and quality of the diagnosis as well as access to oncology specialists is paramount so that patients can receive the best possible treatment in a continuous manner.

The Challenge

Colombia is improving the delivery of healthcare services, but increasing access to innovative treatments and improving support for serious chronic diseases such as cancer remain among the country’s greatest challenges.

Breast cancer, for example, is the cause of the highest number of women dying from cancer, about 2,200 annually. According to the National Cancer Institute in Colombia, approximately 7,000 new cases of breast cancer are reported every year. However, many if not most Colombian women are often not aware of the risk factors for cancer or of the importance of early detection and diagnosis, something the local healthcare system has neglected so far. The result is that patients present with a more advanced disease stage, which in turn makes treatment more costly.

What we’re doing

As the world leader in oncology, we are working hand-in-hand with some of Colombia’s largest healthcare organisations on a broad range of healthcare programmes. Since 2012 we have developed a number of local solutions to improve the patient journey including:

  • Since 2012 we have organised training sessions with primary care healthcare professionals to improve screening diagnosis.
  • Over the past three years we have organised disease awareness campaigns to increase the public’s understanding of breast cancer and ensure that it would be prioritised for treatment.
  • Over the past four years, we created and established “Consultorios para la mujer” throughout the country, specialised clinics aiming at improving access to early diagnosis and improved treatment.  The objective is to reduce the barriers and hurdles a patient may encounter on the way to diagnosis, treatment and hopefully recovery where possible.  This is done by working hand-in-hand with health insurance companies, healthcare professionals and providers as well as with the government.

Our impact

In Colombia, almost 5,000  healthcare professionals have attended plenary lectures on our patient journey programmes, while another 900 attended 26 workshops on clinical breast exams. A further 700 healthcare professionals have undertaken e-learning on signs, symptoms and the patient journey.  

As a result, in 2016, more than 65,000 patients received a clinical breast exam, nearly 188,000 underwent mammography and 2,257 patients were diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Up to now, 131 “Consultorios para la mujer” have been established and 76 comprehensive care models with 68 Routes for Care have been developed. 

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Tags: Access to healthcare