Breast cancer, a leading cause of mortality among women worldwide, affects one in six women, totaling nearly two million cases. In Colombia, the numbers are equally alarming, with 15,509 new cases and 4,411 reported deaths in 2020, according to Globocan, an international cancer observatory.
A Challenging Landscape
Statistics from the Cuenta de Alto Costo reveal that between January 2, 2022, and January 1, 2023, 9,716 new cases were recorded, of which 91.67% were invasive, with stage II being the most diagnosed at 37.51%. These figures indicate a concerning increase, with an 18% rise in reported cases in 2022 compared to the previous year.
Beyond the numbers, the medical community in Colombia faces the challenge of overcoming barriers to healthcare access, including issues with insurance, access to preventive programs, early diagnosis, and timely treatment.
Valentina Agudelo and Cristina García, business administrators, are the minds behind Soy Julieta, a revolutionary portable device. This device, through the combination of breast tissue analysis and artificial intelligence, identifies the risk of developing breast cancer, significantly contributing to early detection.
Soy Julieta took first place in the XXII edition of the Global eAwards, organized by the NTT Data Foundation in Spain. This recognition highlights the importance of technological innovation in healthcare, and according to Valentina Agudelo, CEO of Soy Julieta, this award "has just saved millions of lives."
The Soy Julieta device is wireless, painless, emits no radiation, precise, and offers automatic result interpretation. Its design allows for testing even in remote locations or areas without close access to medical centers, overcoming geographical and socioeconomic barriers that affect many women in Colombia.
Valentina and Cristina dedicated four years to in-depth research on the disease, collaborating with one of Colombia's largest insurers and under the guidance of a surgical medical specialist in epidemiology. The initiative began as a theoretical project while they were university students.
Removing Access Barriers
The idea behind Soy Julieta emerged when confronted with the terrifying reality of late-stage breast cancer detection. Despite the high survival rate when diagnosed early, limited access to diagnostic exams significantly contributes to mortality. Less than 10% of women in Colombia undergo preventive exams regularly.
The device's name, Soy Julieta, pays homage to Julieta Lanteri, an Argentine doctor and the first woman to vote in presidential elections in her country. Lanteri dedicated her life to eliminating gender gaps in politics and access to healthcare, founding the first version of Doctors Without Borders.
Valentina and Cristina aim to continue her legacy by developing new products for the prevention and early detection of diseases in the developing world. With Soy Julieta, these Colombian entrepreneurs are changing the narrative, offering hope and access to early detection of breast cancer.