Spotlight on breast cancer

Beating breast cancer: the first year of UICC’s dedicated programme

UICC’s Breast Cancer Programme has enabled member organisations to access comprehensive support and tailored guidance fundamental to their work. Picture taken at the Fundación Cáncer de Mama (FUCAM) in Mexico by Adán Jardón. (c) UICC 2021
4 October 2021

Marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, UICC looks at the achievements of its Breast Cancer Programme launched a year ago and showcases awareness campaigns by member organisations.

UICC's breast cancer content hub

UICC’s breast cancer content hub provides access to infographics, videos, news articles, blogs, Virtual Dialogues, UCC member projects supported by the SPARC Metastatic Breast Cancer Challenge, and other resources.

The launch last year of UICC’s Breast Cancer Programme has proven to be particularly timely. 

While breast cancer has consistently been one of the most prevalent forms of cancer globally, the latest cancer data released in December 2020 showed that it has now surpassed lung cancer as the most commonly diagnosed, with nearly 2.3 million new cases in 2020, and the leading cause of death from cancer, not only in low- and middle-income countries but also in many high-income regions. WHO launched on 8 March 2021 its new Global Breast Cancer Initiative to address this urgent situation and improve outcomes in terms of increased awareness, earlier and more accurate diagnosis for improved detection, and better survival rates and quality of life for patients.

In this context, UICC’s Breast Cancer Programme has enabled member organisations to access comprehensive support and tailored guidance fundamental to their work in cancer control and particularly essential in the current pandemic.

UICC’s Breast Cancer Programme is supported Pfizer as a founding partner as well as Daiichi Sankyo, the US National Cancer Institute Center for Global Health and the Breast Health Global Initiative. 

As an example of the Programme's activities and to help raise the voice of people living with cancer, UICC expanded its Patient Group Mentoring programme to the Eastern Mediterranean region including five groups with a focus on breast cancer.​​​​ ​​​This cohort of 10 patient groups from Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon and Morocco regularly meet to receive input and content on topics that help them increase their voice, such as storytelling and digital communications.

In addition, to support organisations in developing and implementing strong breast cancer projects and programmes within their national contexts, 120 professionals have also benefitted from participation in a comprehensive Project ECHO® on breast cancer control. This six-month virtual course based on peer-to-peer learning started in October 2021 and finished in May 2021, engaging 25 organisations across the world. Furthermore, by the end of 2021, 10 healthcare professionals will have been awarded Technical Fellowships that provide one-to-one training and guidance to enhance their skills and knowledge in breast cancer. 

To accelerate and ensure continued leadership in breast cancer, a select cohort of emerging cancer professionals will benefit from the Young Leaders’ programme in 2021/2022, including three focused on breast cancer. The programme will provide them with important visibility at UICC’s high-level events, including access to the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit on 25-26 October 2021 as well as connecting them to a strong network to facilitate their work and support their leadership ambitions in their specific areas of work. 

Finally, to kick-off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, UICC will release a  high-level session entitled “The role of innovation and cross-sectoral partnerships in advancing breast cancer control globally” on 5 October in the lead-up to the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit.

A collection of articles has also been published in the International Journal of Cancer, curated by the team at the International Journal of Cancer & the Union for International Cancer Control for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The collection includes a variety of both translational and clinical research articles that investigate the complex epidemiology and biology of breast cancer, and present novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

UICC’s Virtual Dialogues series on breast cancer

UICC’s Virtual Dialogues dedicated to breast cancer were launched in October 2020 to help the breast cancer community to share experiences and expertise. Special focus topics have included understanding approaches to breast cancer control that take into account specific needs and income levels; understanding early cancer screening, detection and diagnosis; exploring how organisations and groups working in breast cancer can make the most of World Cancer Day to raise awareness; and how to increase engagement with the public virtually during Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Pink October.

The latest Virtual Dialogue was held this past 21 September in the lead-up to Pink October to inspire action on this occasion. The Dialogue showcased campaigns from UICC members, offered tips on crafting messages and designing campaigns, and provided a platform to share experiences from last year’s Pink October that can provide valuable lessons on reaching out to the public and policymakers as well as fundraising during a pandemic.

Indeed, it is clear that one of the key challenges faced by organisations for Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in engaging their public on virtual platforms and reaching fundraising targets.

Campaigns by UICC member organisations for Pink October

The three case studies presented at the Virtual Dialogue were by FEMAMA in Brazil, Run For A Cure Africa Breast Cancer Foundation (RFCA) in Nigeria and the Global Chinese Breast Cancer Organization Alliance in China. 

The FEMAMA campaign involves, on the one hand, presenting data in delays in surgery and treatment and the impact on survival; on the other, it urges women to ask specific questions about whether they have done a mammogram this year, whether they are controlling their weight and whether they are exercising regularly. In addition to help women realise the importance of screening, the campaign also aims at collecting data to identify which barriers prevent women from getting screened.

RFCA’s campaign is an in-person breast cancer outreach programme called the “Big Pink Fight”, which takes place in Lagos and delivers not only education to raise awareness about the importance of screening but also information on early detection and self-examination. 


Check out what campaigns are taking place for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and share their your own campaign via the International Cancer Control Partnership (ICCP) platform.



The Global Chinese Breast Cancer Organization Alliance is organising a hybrid event (in-person with virtual component and English translation available), called “Building lives with miracles.” The organisation intends to break a world record with a fitness challenge open to medical professionals, breast cancer patients and survivors and anyone else from around the world who wishes to raise awareness about breast cancer.

Other participants in the Virtual Dialogue also shared their campaigns for Pink October. The campaign developed by the patient organisation Baheya in Egypt, who is enrolled in UICC’s Patient Group Mentoring Programme, also involves raising awareness and motivating women to check themselves for signs and symptoms. The organisation has produced a flyer that will be distributed widely in public spaces, designed posters to be displayed on public buses, is painting the fence of a new hospital in pink, and has arranged to have the pyramids lit up in pink.  

Looking ahead to 2022

In its second year, UICC’s Breast Cancer Programme will increase its focus on global advocacy, while expanding the virtual engagement and support of breast cancer organisations. The Programme will also be developing an online course for the benefit of up to 100 individuals from UICC member organisations. 

Finally, breast cancer groups around the world will be invited to join a workshop at UICC’s 2022 World Cancer Congress taking place in Geneva in October, and benefit from this unique platform for networking and sharing experiences. A key emphasis in 2022 will be to support join action, building bridges between all the actors in breast cancer (private sector, healthcare, governments, civil society and international organisations). 

Last update: 
Tuesday 2 November 2021