Wider access to breast imaging services needed to save lives in Latin America and the Caribbean

Only 19 of 33 countries in the region report having mammography services available in the public health sector

Washington, D.C., November 2014 (PAHO/WHO) - Better access to mammography and other breast imaging services could help improve outcomes for more than 152,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Latin America and the Caribbean, experts at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) said on the occasion of World Radiology Day, November 8.

"Early detection, accurate diagnosis, and appropriate and timely treatment are the keys to better outcomes for women with breast cancer," said PAHO/WHO Director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne. "Mammography has a critical role to play in this process, but due to its health system and resource requirements, its full potential has yet to be realized in our region. On World Radiology Day, we are highlighting the importance of strengthening health systems and making breast imaging services more widely accessible to help save women's lives."

Each year in the Americas, approximately 408,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 92,000 women die from the disease. Some 47% of these deaths occur in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A recent PAHO/WHO survey found that only 19 of 33 countries in Latin American and the Caribbean report having mammography services available in the public health sector. 

"Increasing access to quality breast imaging services is essential," said Dr. Pablo Jimenez, PAHO/WHO Regional Advisor on Radiological Health Program. "But it's also important that it be adequately performed, and that requires guidelines, well trained professionals, and effective quality assurance and quality control programs to ensure radiation safety, valid results, and accurate diagnosis."

Increasing the effectiveness and quality of breast imaging services is one of the goals of PAHO/WHO's technical cooperation aimed at strengthening public health and regulatory capacity in its member countries.

PAHO/WHO celebrated World Radiology Day on November 19 with an interactive panel discussion on access, regulation, quality, effectiveness, and proper delivery of breast imaging services in the context of current health technologies, cancer control and universal health coverage. The event also provided health workers and health authorities in the Americas with information on how to improve access to these health technologies.

Panelists included Dr. Helen Barr, Director of the Division of Mammography Quality Standards, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Dr. Gillian Battino, Radiologist and Professor at the University of Wisconsin; and Dr. Luis Bernardo Saenz, Public Health Specialist and Cancer Project Coordinator, Costa Rican Social Security Institute.


  • To access the virtual recording (Please go to end of the table and click on November 19).