Saturday, February 4, 2017 9:42 am
No fewer than 800,000 Africans lack access to radiotherapy and other related cancer services, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said.
The Director-General of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, stated this on Friday while speaking at an event in Vienna, Austria, to commemorate the 2017 World Cancer Day.
He explained that the UN agency was working to make radiotherapy and nuclear medicine more widely available.
He said early cancer diagnosis saves lives and cuts treatment costs, particularly in developing countries where the majority of cancer cases are diagnosed too late.
According to him, there is an estimated shortage of 5,000 radiotherapy machines throughout the world, saying early cancer diagnosis, better trained medics can save lives and money.
“Among African countries, for example, 80 per cent of the estimated population of one billion is without access to radiotherapy and related cancer services.
“To meet the cancer needs of developing countries, we need around 10,000 additional radiation oncologists, 6,000 medical physicists, 3,000 dosimetrists and 20,000 radiation therapists,” Amano said.
He outlined a number of successes the UN agency has had in Africa, particularly, in Nigeria and Ghana.
“We helped Nigeria to develop its institutions and infrastructure for fighting cancer, and provided training for dozens of oncology, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy professionals.”
“In Ghana, for example, we provided diagnostic equipment for child cancers,” Amano said.
He also noted specialist training, including online resources, such as the Virtual University for Cancer Control, which enables medical professionals in Africa to train for free, or the Human Health Campus website for professionals in nuclear medicine and related fields.
He said reducing early deaths from cancer and other chronic disease by one-third is stipulated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the international community agreed to try to reach by 2030.
Amano noted that given the need for greater equipment and training, he is considering devoting the IAEA Scientific Forum in September to exploring the benefits of nuclear medicine and radiation technology for human health.
“Improving access to effective cancer treatment in developing countries has been one of his key priorities since taking lead of IAEA in 2009,” Amano said.
Similarly, new guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO was released ahead of World Cancer Day which is marked annually on Feb. 4.
It tries to inform the public about the different symptoms of cancer so that they can get care and to provide safe and effective treatment, accordingto Dr Etienne Krug,
Director of WHO’s Department for the Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.
“Diagnosing cancer in late stages, and the inability to provide treatment, condemns many people to unnecessary suffering and early death.
“By taking the steps to implement WHO’s new guidance, healthcare planners can improve early diagnosis of cancer and ensure prompt treatment, especially for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers,” Krug said.
According to WHO figures, it is estimated that each year, 8.8 million people die from cancer, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.
The figure is so high that it accounts for two and a half times more people killed than those who die from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, it said.
It is estimated that by 2030, more than two-thirds of all cancer-related deaths will be in developing countries.
In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer through healthcare expenditure and loss of productivity was estimated at 1.16 trillion dollars, it said adding, early detection can also cut the cost of treatment.
According to WHO, studies in high-income countries have shown that treatment for cancer patients who have been diagnosed early are two to four times less expensive compared to treating people diagnosed with cancer at more advanced stages.
The global health body said more radiotherapy machines and training are needed, adding one of the steps to WHO’s early diagnosis is strengthening and equipping health services and training workers. (NAN)