Roswitha Britz beat breast cancer nearly 20 years ago, but she remains dedicated to helping other women with the disease
At nearly two decades free of cancer, it would be natural to think that Roswitha Britz has left the painful memories of diagnosis and treatment long behind. Following a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in 1999, her doctors told her she had a very good prognosis. Almost twenty years earlier, she had moved from her native Germany with her three-year-old daughter to live on the idyllic Spanish island of Menorca. Life was good.
But a cancer diagnosis is hard to shake entirely, and the way Britz sees it, much work remains in breast cancer research. She’s healthy and disease-free, but she still wants to contribute as best she can to breast cancer awareness.
“I felt the need to talk about my disease when I was first diagnosed,” she recalls. “I saw a lot of denial then, and I still see that today. I’ll turn 70 in three years, and people tell me I can stop. But there’s still so much that needs to be done.”
Following her diagnosis and treatment, Britz co-founded an association of women with breast cancer on Menorca called the Menorca Breast Cancer Group ALBA. She was the second president of this group. She has also served on the Board of the Spanish Breast Cancer Federation, or FECMA for more than 15 years and was the organization’s president from 2012 until 2016. In 2012, too, she was elected to serve on the Board of the European Breast Cancer Coalition, served as vice-president in 2014 and as president from 2015 until 2017.
With all of this experience, both professional and personal and knowledge about the disease, Britz is well-poised to advocate for women who have had breast cancer. Among the many aspects of the disease, and in particular with reference to metastatic breast cancer, she points to screening as a critical component. And in a concrete way, she has acted on this belief. “I initially thought that the needs were the same among women,” Britz says. “In fact, they aren’t. Women with metastatic breast cancer, I’ve come to believe, need special attention, and more support, namely because they are living longer.”
Another facet of her advocacy is health insurance, and what she sees as the right of women with breast cancer to be treated in a government-accredited, multidisciplinary setting. She cites the work done by Europa Donna, the European Commission Initiative for Breast Cancer and EUSOMA as buttressing the goal to encourage comprehensive breast cancer screening and care, particularly in Eastern European countries.
She admits that some may disagree with her opinions, but is clear, too, that over the years, she has done her best to advocate for other women who have breast cancer.
“I will always be concerned with breast cancer, so long as women continue to die from the disease,” Britz says. “And I hope that both my granddaughters and grandsons will never know of its existence.”