No less than seven million people are being targeted by the World Health Organization, WHO, in the effort to step up cancer services in resource-poor countries.
The WHO warns that, if current trends continue, the world will see a 60 percent increase in cancer cases over the next two decades, predicting that the greatest increase (an estimated 81 percent) in new cases will occur in low- and middle-income countries, where survival rates are currently lowest.
This global health body says this is largely because the countries in question have had to focus limited health resources on combating infectious diseases and improving maternal and child health, while health services are not equipped to prevent, diagnose and treat cancers.
In 2019, more than 90 percent of high-income countries reported that comprehensive treatment services for cancer were available in the public health system compared to less than 15 percent of low-income countries. “This is a wake-up call to all of us to tackle the unacceptable inequalities between cancer services in rich and poor countries,” says Dr. Ren Minghui, Assistant Director-General, Universal Health Coverage/ Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization.
“If people have access to primary care and referral systems then cancer can be detected early, treated effectively and cured. Cancer should not be a death sentence for anyone, anywhere.” Convinced that progress in poorer countries is achievable, WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, are releasing two coordinated reports on World Cancer Day (4 February), in response to government calls for more research into the scope and potential policies and programmes to improve cancer control.
“At least 7 million lives could be saved over the next decade, by identifying the most appropriate science for each country situation, by basing strong cancer responses on universal health coverage, and by mobilising different stakeholders to work together”, said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO.
WHO highlights a wide range of proven interventions to prevent new cancer cases. These include controlling tobacco use (responsible for 25 percent of cancer deaths), vaccinating against hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer, eliminating cervical cancer by vaccinating against HPV, screening, and treatment, implementing high-impact cancer management interventions that bring value for money and ensuring access to palliative care including pain relief.