Over 600,000 global breast cancer deaths recorded in 2020; while diagnosed cases trump 2 million

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer and leading cause of death in women globally.

Source: GLOBOCAN 2020

It is a disease that results from cells in the breast that grows out of control. The disease occurs in both men and women; however, females are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer in comparison to men. Cancer of the breast can start in different areas of the breast like the lobules, the ducts, and in some instances the tissue in between. There are different types of breast cancer

  • invasive(Ductal Carcinoma in situ and Lobular carcinoma in situ) and
  •  non-invasive(Invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma, Paget’s disease of the nipple, Inflammatory breast cancer, Phyllodes tumors of the breast, Locally advanced breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer.)

The subtypes of breast cancer are:

  • Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer
  • HER2 positive breast cancer
  • Triple-negative breast cancer

Global outlook

A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released on March 26, 2021,  indicates that in the year 2020, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths were recorded globally. 

At the end of that same year, a total of 7.8 million women had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five (5) years.

Records for incidence of breast cancer in men, on the other hand, is about 0.5-1% according to the WHO.



In Africa, breast cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer in African females, representing the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. 

In Nigeria, 22.7% of new breast cancer cases were recorded across all sexes and ages in 2020. 

Breast cancer accounted for 18.7% of new cancer cases in both men and women in Ghana for the year 2020. 

Liberia also recorded 528 new cases from both sexes, accounting for 14.9% of new cancer cases. 

In the Gambia and Sierra Leone, 8.1% and 20.9%  breast cancer cases were recorded among all new cancer cases in 2020 respectively.


The fight against cancer 

As a lack of awareness and late diagnosis have been highlighted as major concerns in dealing with the disease, public education is one of the key measures taken in the fight against breast cancer. For that reason, focus on improving awareness among men and women on signs and symptoms of breast cancer, highlighting the importance of early detection and treatment has been forefront in many initiatives targeted at fighting the disease. 

The WHO Global Breast Cancer Initiative (GBCI) was set up to reduce global breast cancer mortality by 2.5% yearly, thereby averting a potential 2.5 million breast cancer deaths globally between 2020 and 2040.

The WHO has identified and broken this move into three main directions to help with this:

  • Health promotion for early detection
  • Timely diagnosis
  • Comprehensive breast cancer management

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also through various programs provides quality breast screening and diagnostics services to various categories of people. 

Across the world over, many projects and initiatives have been instituted to help push the agenda to reduce breast cancer related mortality. One of these is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign held in the month of October to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer.

The annual month-long celebration is aimed at changing the way the disease is seen and addressed as support is harnessed across the world to encourage people to regularly check their breasts, to support those fighting the disease, to cheer on those who have survived it, and to remember those who lost the battle to it.

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