The Power of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Partnerships: The Role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Safe Cancer Treatment

Posted by On April 15, 2015
Panel Photo Participants gather on World Cancer Day 2015 at IAEA Headquarters for a panel discussion.   By Andrea Kirsten-Coleman. Partnerships are vital to the work of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. Whether partners provide a financial investment, in-kind contributions or a combination thereof, their work is key to providing women with cancer treatment over the full continuum of cancer control and care. In this post, we look at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon’s partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon recently signed an agreement with the IAEA Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) to address cancer control more vigorously through international collaboration. While many people associate the IAEA with its work to protect the world from nuclear threats–Atoms for Peace–one of its key objectives is to confront the cancer epidemic in low- and middle-income countries through radiation medicine—Atoms for Development. IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano has stated that IAEA supports “some 160 cancer projects around the world through its technical cooperation programme, and helps countries to establish oncology and radiotherapy centres, provides extensive training for medical and technical staff, and supports the establishment of nuclear medicine facilities for diagnostics.” In fact, the IAEA must first assess the need for, and safety of, every radio-diagnostic and radiotherapy machine around the world before it goes into operation, to ensure its effectiveness. IAEA is collaborating with Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon to ensure that women in the countries where we work have access to effective diagnostics and treatment using radiation. Expanding the availability of, and access to, cancer treatment is such a big part of the work of IAEA that the agency recently invited Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon’s Executive Director, Dr. Doyin Oluwole, to attend a panel on the subject in Vienna, Austria, to reinforce the message of accessibility. During her talk, Dr. Oluwole highlighted these points: Before a woman can have access to radiotherapy treatment, she must first have access to the following:
  • Information to debunk the myths related to cancer prevention, early detection and cure;
  • Quality services close enough to her residence or workplace;
  • Adequate financial resources for treatment;
  • Culturally-sensitive services that allow her to take time off from work and household responsibilities; and
  • A full continuum of care for a successful cancer-combatting strategy, from primary prevention to palliative care.
Nothing is worse than for a woman to find out she needs further treatment without the advanced options in place to help her do so. To her, the diagnosis becomes a death sentence. Without access to treatment and these other crucial touchpoints, many women will suffer the fate of Evelyn, a 34-year old Zambian woman who died last year from cervical cancer before she was scheduled to receive treatment.  Evelyn left six children and an elderly mother. Because no single organization has the resources—financial, human, material—to tackle every step of the cancer care continuum, it is essential to partner with organizations like IAEA to provide access to the various components of care.  Each Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partner brings unique strengths, which gives it distinct responsibilities within cancer care that will ensure a stronger overall prevention and control strategy.  Each Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partner, like IAEA, helps us ensure that every other “Evelyn” can live the life she chooses for herself. Andrea Kirsten-Coleman is Program Manager, Communications, Development and Partner Outreach, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.