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Inditex founder funds ground-breaking diagnostic and radiotherapy equipment in every region in Spain
INDITEX empire founder and Europe's wealthiest man Amancio Ortega has donated €320 million to upgrade cancer treatment equipment in Spain.
A well-known philanthropist, Ortega's global enterprise – which includes budget high-street clothing chain Zara – handed over €17m in 2015 to the regional health service in his native Galicia.
The company appears to be bomb-proof, financially: during times of economic crisis and recession, it was one of the few non-luxury goods producers which continued to make a profit.
In fact, last year, its takings went up 10% to €3.16bn, and bonuses of €42m were handed out to all staff.
This latest donation will allow all 17 autonomously-governed regions in Spain to aquire a total of 290 pieces of equipment for their oncology departments.
They include radiotherapy units and diagnostic tools – the latter being among the most important types of equipment, since as the national cancer care and research charity AECC recalls, the key to a complete cure and successful, minimally-invasive treatment lies in detecting cancer at a very early stage.
Most of the cancers considered to carry the worst-possible prognosis are those which are practically symptom-free until they are at a very advanced stage, where the likelihood of a full recovery is minimal and most treatment is palliative only.
In Spain, over 200,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed every year, of which at least 60% will require radiotherapy as part of their treatment.
As for the diagnostic tools funded by Inditex, these include digital mammogram machines with in-built tomosynthesis technology, allowing tumours to be detected when they are less than a millimetre in size.
By the time most women discover a breast lump which turns out to be malignant, it is usually around two or three centimetres in size even where the cancer is only Stage I, and depending upon the type of tumour, even at this level treatment often requires chemotherapy.
But finding a tumour at a fraction of this size means faster, more efficient, shorter-term and much less aggressive treatment can be given.
Galicia regional health authority has already been able to upgrade all its diagnostic tools in every oncology department in the four north-western provinces thanks to the tycoon's eponymous Amancio Ortega Foundation, and 15 out of 16 latest-generation mammogram machines are now in operation.
Also, the world's fourth-richest man according to Forbes has funded a radiotherapy unit in the hospital in the provincial capital of Lugo, which did not have one before and required patients to travel considerable distance every day for weeks at a time for treatment.
Last year, the Foundation donated €40m to Andalucía regional health authority to pay for 25 accelerated linear radiotherapy units, two CAT scanners and an intra-operative radiotherapy unit which allows treatment to be given during surgery to remove the tumour.
The Spanish Radiotherapeutic Oncology Society (SEOR) has warned the situation is 'critical' in national hospitals, since 42% of its radiotherapy units are 'obsolete', being over 10 years old, and that only 3.8 units per million inhabitants are available in public hospitals – around half of the 'desirable' seven per million recommended by the Society.
This means Ortega's donation will make a massive difference to cancer care and diagnosis across the country, increasing survival rates – all thanks to customers who buy clothing and interior decoration items in Inditex's international string of stores.
Chains run by Inditex include Zara, probably the firm's most global brand, as well as interiors firm Zara Home, plus budget and young fashions stores Stradivarius, Pull&Bear and Bershka, lingerie outlet Oysho and mid-upper high-street fashion labels Massimo Dutti and Uterqüe.
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