Around 8.8 million people die of cancer each year, with most of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries. In light of these figures, healthcare authorities around the world are actively seeking to combat a disease that can affect people of any sex or age.
Ana Laura Arbesú
New data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is leading the campaign, shows that one problem is that many cancer cases are diagnosed too late. Even in countries with optimal health systems and services, many cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when they are harder to treat successfully.
“Diagnosing cancer in late stages, and the inability to provide treatment, condemns many people to unnecessary suffering and early death,” says Dr Etienne Krug, Director of WHO’s Department for the Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.
She believes that 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. She suggests that this will result in more people surviving cancer. It will also be less expensive to treat and cure cancer patients.
WHO encourages low and middle-income countries to prioritise basic, high-impact and low-cost cancer diagnosis and treatment services.
The Organization also recommends reducing the need for people to pay for care out of their own pockets, which prevents many from seeking help in the first place.
The situation in Latin America is no different. According to statistics from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the region.
It is estimated that 2.8 million people are diagnosed each year, and that 1.3 million people die from the disease on an annual basis.
Approximately 52 percent of new cases occur in those aged 65 or under. Unless further measures are taken, PAHO predicts an increase to over 4 million new cases and it warns that 1.9 million people could die from the disease in 2025.
Considered the second-leading cause of death in Cuba, the rate of new cases of cancer is increasing; however, the mortality rate is beginning to plateau, a specialist explains to Prensa Latina.
For Teresa Romera, head of the programme to fight cancer, the Cuban strategy against the disease is to encourage registration in the family doctor and nurse programme, with a view to mitigating risk factors, securing early diagnoses and treating patients as quickly as possible.
When the latter (i.e. prevention and cure) cannot be achieved, she stresses, the objective is holistic treatment of the patient.
In such cases, the aim is to improve survival through better quality of life, by offering increasingly personalised treatment, continuous support and rehabilitation, and end-of-life and palliative care.
In referring to risk factors, which are the focus of prevention efforts, she explains a source of dual causation at work in Cuba: smoking and an ageing population.
Cuba is making a sustained effort with regard to both early detection and the development of drugs for cancer prevention and treatment.
Recent figures from the healthcare authorities show that 67 percent of ongoing clinical studies in Cuba are seeking an effective treatment for various types of cancer.
In total, 98 clinical trials are currently underway on the island for various diseases.
Therapeutic vaccines, created in the Molecular Immunology (CIM) and Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) centres in Havana are other Cuban institutions, are the most promising investigatory pathway at this time. (PL)
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by: Roz Harvey)