Landmark Study Points Way to Major Improvements in Breast Cancer Diagnosis in Chile

L.E.K. Consulting
·5-min read

Research by L.E.K. Consulting and Roche Addresses Barriers to Care

SANTIAGO, Chile, Oct. 26, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A landmark study by global management consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting and Roche Laboratories points the way toward major improvements in breast cancer screening and diagnosis in Chile.

According to the study, Changing the Future of Chilean Women, a series of barriers – ranging from lack of screening and testing, to primary care physician shortages, to limited public awareness campaigns – keep breast cancer cases from being fully detected and diagnosed.

The problem is particularly acute in the public healthcare system but affects all patients in all regions.

The study calls for a new standard of care focused on prevention, primary care, improved screening and patient support – with regional adjustments to tailor each program to local needs. It goes beyond previous research in documenting the extent of under- and incomplete diagnosis. Such information had previously been difficult to obtain because Chile, unlike some other countries, does not maintain a national cancer registry.

Some of the changes recommended by the study will be implemented as part of the National Cancer Law, passed earlier this year. But the study recommends additional initiatives that go beyond the scope of the new law.

“Despite the overall excellence of the Chilean healthcare system, our findings show that too many Chilean women are not getting the best it has to offer when it comes to breast cancer screening and diagnosis,” said Maurício França, a partner in L.E.K.’s São Paulo office and the head of the firm’s healthcare practice in Latin America. “Treatment is equal to the best available in the world, but if women are not completely and correctly diagnosed, they cannot benefit from it. Important changes are underway and must continue if we are truly to build a better future for Chilean women."

Groundbreaking analysis and extensive interviews create first comprehensive picture of breast cancer in Chile

The study combined qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to produce a comprehensive overview of the state of Chilean breast cancer treatment. It is based on a proprietary analysis of breast cancer incidence rates, and on qualitative interviews with 80 professionals, including matronas (midwives), breast cancer surgeons, radiologists, pathologists and employees of Servicios de Salud and Ministerio de Salud (Minsal), as well as representatives from private companies and patient associations. Interviews were conducted across Santiago, Los Rios, Atacama and O’Higgins.

The study identified six major barriers to breast cancer screening and diagnosis

The interviews identified six major barriers to breast cancer screening and diagnosis in Chile:

  • Preventive healthcare doesn’t get enough emphasis, and awareness campaigns are limited to the month of October. The lack of emphasis on screening and prevention inhibits early breast cancer diagnosis. Current awareness efforts are limited to October – leading to reduced reach and impact.

  • There aren’t enough primary care providers. While the amount of available primary care varies by region, there are primary care shortages in many regions. The result is that patients seek help only later when their disease is more advanced.

  • Primary care providers don’t have enough breast cancer experience. Many have only limited experience with breast cancer patients and protocols – a problem that starts in medical school.

  • There’s not enough access to screening and testing. Access to mammography and other imaging exams is restricted by limited public network infrastructure, limited budgets and the low quality of some private providers.

  • There aren’t enough incentives for risk assessment and screening. No public policies incentivize patients to seek mammography – nor do they support advanced exams such as BCRA genetic testing.

  • Patients don’t get enough help navigating the system. The multilevel Chilean healthcare system is difficult to navigate – and there are no stakeholders dedicated to providing assistance. And there is unequal availability of services across and within regions.

Prevention, primary care, screening and patient support should be areas of focus

To close gaps and save lives, the study recommends a broad response focused on four areas:

  • Enhanced prevention culture and awareness. Awareness and prevention campaigns should be continuous – not just confined to October. Programs should be localized to respect regional differences and address specific gaps in coverage.

  • Enhanced primary care. Primary care professionals need to be equipped and trained to assess, refer and support patients, and there needs to be closer ties between primary and secondary care. In addition, medical education should focus more on breast cancer screening and treatment.

  • More investment in screening. Mammography needs investment – more equipment, increased budgets for outsourced exams, optimized human resources and new quality standards for both public and private settings.

  • The creation of patient support programs. Patients need support from the moment they suspect breast cancer all the way through treatment. The aim of support programs should be to help them access services faster and stick with the treatment process. A combined effort by government, private companies and nonprofit organizations is required.

“The National Cancer Law is an important first step, but ultimately, overcoming these barriers should be the shared responsibility of the government, private companies, the third sector and society as a whole to help reshape the future of breast cancer treatment for Chilean women,” Mr. França said.

About L.E.K. Consulting
L.E.K. Consulting is a global management consulting firm that uses deep industry expertise and rigorous analysis to help business leaders achieve practical results with real impact. We are uncompromising in our approach to helping clients consistently make better decisions, deliver improved business performance and create greater shareholder returns. The firm advises and supports global companies that are leaders in their industries — including the largest private and public-sector organizations, private equity firms, and emerging entrepreneurial businesses. Founded in 1983, L.E.K. employs more than 1,600 professionals across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. For more information, go to www.lek.com.

Michael-Jon Romano
Sommerfield Communications
Michael-jon@sommerfield.com