New Thinking about Global Breast Cancer Care

Ophira Ginsburg

Dr. Ophira Ginsburg

Breast cancer. Most of us who think about it imagine mammograms, surgery, chemotherapy and hospitals. But in rural parts of Asia and South Asia, such interventions are a rarity. In fact, breast cancer is hardly discussed at all.

In the fall of 2010, Dr. Ophira Ginsburg co-founded Amader Gram (Our Village) Breast Care in rural Bangladesh, to provide care for all women regardless of ability to pay. She also helped to develop clinical practice guidelines for breast cancer, with the aim of helping Bangladeshi doctors provide high quality, evidence-based care. But Ginsburg quickly realized, if women won’t seek out care, her efforts would be wasted.

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These women tell others what early breast changes to watch for, and tell them that breast cancer can be treated for free at Amader Gram. Quotation_Right

“We used a peer-based model by training rural Bangladeshi women as community health workers,” she explains. “These women tell others what early breast changes to watch for, and tell them that breast cancer can be treated for free at Amader Gram.”

Ginsburg’s model links community-based research with technology, by using mobile phones to track women and gather data. Her “global to local” work is also making a tangible difference in Toronto, where newcomers are often vulnerable to undiagnosed breast disease. Ginsburg’s research in collaboration with local agencies in Bangladesh has already helped hundreds of rural women in South Asia. Now, her collaborative work in Toronto will lead to innovative targeted programs that help thousands of South Asian immigrant women to seek breast care.

Ophira Ginsburg is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute and head of the Cancer Prevention and Screening Program, and director of Familial Oncology at the Central East Regional Cancer Program at the RS McLaughlin Durham Regional Cancer Centre.
In 2012, Ginsburg received the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the category of health, for her work to improve breast cancer care for underserved South Asian women. The University of Toronto has featured Ginsburg in its Boundless Campaign.

 

THE POWER OF MANY

Bangladesh

Ophira Ginsburg works in Bangladesh to implement practical, homegrown solutions that improve breast health for women in South Asia and Toronto.

  • Ginsburg began her career as a genetic counsellor, working under Dr. Steven Narod’s mentorship.
  • For seven years she volunteered as Deputy Scientific Director with the International Breast Cancer Research Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin.
  • In Bangladesh, Ginsburg collaborates with a local non-governmental organization called Amader Gram, which means “Our Village.”
  • In October 2012 she was a panelist for the Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI), hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna; she co-authored the first BHGI guidelines for supportive care and quality of life for breast cancer in developing countries, to be published in the fall of 2013. In Toronto, Ginsburg works collaboratively with Dr. Farah Ahmad of York University and Toronto’s Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (Crescent Town Club).
  • Her work has been supported by a Rising Stars in Global Health award from Grand Challenges Canada.