In Mexico, an estimated 23,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed per year. Fifty percent of the cases are diagnosed at stage III and IV. Although the rate of new breast cancer cases is increasing each year, the federal budget allocated to the disease is decreasing, partially due to the lack of visibility of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients and the absence of legal mechanisms that enforce their rights.
Cancer Warriors is an NGO focusing on improving the quality of life for adults and children fighting cancer in Mexico. One of the organisation’s most notable achievements includes the enactment of a bill for occupational leave for parents with children with cancer in Mexico in 2018. Following this significant achievement, the organisation has felt empowered to broaden its efforts, leveraging their expertise in the legislative, health and public policy fields to fight for the rights of breast cancer patients.
With their SPARC grant awarded in October 2019, Cancer Warriors has worked towards establishing a surveillance commission to enforce the rights of Mexican women with breast cancer. These advocacy efforts were launched in response to recent government budget cuts in the health budget, which resulted in thousands of women having to interrupt their cancer treatment for financial reasons.
The “Solidarity Council for Women diagnosed with Breast Cancer” will be a legal mechanism to defend the public budget focused on prevention, treatment and research of breast cancer in Mexico. Amongst other objectives relating to breast cancer patients, it was proposed that the Solidarity Council have the following specific objectives for MBC patients:
A draft bill detailing the provisions of the Solidarity Council was drafted in 2020 and presented to the House of Representatives. It contains health, legal and financial provisions that argue the necessity of this legal mechanism being established. To move towards the establishment of the Solidarity Council, several other meetings were held with Mexican senators and members of the House of Representatives.
"The Solidarity Council will empower more than 140,000 patients diagnosed with breast cancer and give them the importance and attention they need in subjects such as budgetary issues, sharing information about new treatments and receiving the attention they need in Mexico’s Health System."
Extensive research was also carried out to assess the current state of treatment services and palliative care for MBC patients in Mexico. Based on this research, materials were developed to present to the various government entities. Testimonies from cancer patients and survivors were gathered and shared in the social media campaign #FuerzaGuerreras to demonstrate the stories of women diagnosed with MBC and to present the urgent need for funding and support for MBC patients.
To complement the meetings with the members of the government and further contribute to these advocacy efforts, several public events were organised gathering medical oncologists, patients, lawyers, activists, and legislators committed to the fight against this disease. The digital forum “The Importance of not interrupting breast cancer treatments” was held in September 2020 with over 500 attendees and was followed by a group of legislators urging the approval of the Solidarity Council bill.
In 2021, the CEO of Cancer Warriors, Kenji López Cuevas, had a public conversation called: “Conversatorio digital: una valiente historia de lucha contra el cancer de mama” (a brave story of breast cancer fight), with a digital influencer, Claudia Santillana, to continue to raise awareness on breast cancer.
In November 2020, the initiative proposing the establishment of the Solidarity Council was approved unanimously by the Gender Equality Committee. The vote on the law is currently pending in the Health Committee of the House of Representative.
Although the bill is not yet approved, important support in favour of breast cancer patients was garnered at a political level as a result of the advocacy efforts supported through this project. Over 30 Mexican NGOs joined in the promotion of the initiative, which is currently supported by over 110 members of the House of Representatives. This initiative gathered all sectors in the fight against breast cancer in Mexico, including the strong involvement of MBC patients, representatives of the Ministry of Health, representatives of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, the medical and scientific sectors, as well as academic and civil society. This SPARC project has catalysed a movement in favour of effective breast cancer laws and has generated high levels of support and awareness amongst lawmakers.
“As Mexican legislators we have a firm commitment to the women diagnosed with breast cancer and with MBC patients. The initiative for the creation of the Solidarity Council for Woman Diagnosed with Breast Cancer in Mexico provided us with the opportunity to show that commitment. I have faith my colleagues will approve it”.
Mariana Rodriguez Mier y Teran, Vice-president of the Mexican House of Representatives.
Through the social media campaign #FuerzaGuerreras, over 10,000 people have heard patient stories and the importance of protecting their rights, contributing to raising awareness and knowledge on breast cancer at the national level.
(Information from the project description and context is compiled from the final SPARC report)