HEALTH AND SCIENCE

Cancer: Tedros urges governments to help close the care gap

Many countries have also experienced disruption to cancer screening and treatment.

In Summary

•WHO highlighted the role of national cancer centres, saying they can be a one-stop-shop for prevention, diagnosis, multidisciplinary treatment and supportive care, 

•Tedros called on governments to invest in primary healthcare by supporting universal health coverage.

Dr Tedros the WHO's Director General.
Dr Tedros the WHO's Director General.
Image: BBC

As the world marked Cancer day on February 5, the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for closing the gap that exists between high and low-income countries in terms of the availability of cancer care.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death, globally, with an estimated 20 million people diagnosis and 10 million deaths from the disease in 2021. WHO says the figures are an alarming record.

“This means that a cancer diagnosis has the potential to push families into poverty, particularly in lower-income countries, an effect that has been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic,” WHO said.

According to WHO, though all cancers can be treated and many can be prevented or cured, available care reflects global inequality.  Comprehensive treatment is available in more than 90 per cent of high-income countries, but less than 15 per cent of low-income countries.

Ways to reduce your cancer risk
Ways to reduce your cancer risk
Image: Courtesy: United Nations

Cancer services are covered by national healthcare services in only 37 per cent of low- and middle-income countries, compared to at least 78 per cent of high-income countries.

Tedros called on governments to invest in primary healthcare by supporting universal health coverage and ensuring all people have access to healthcare services and a leading healthy lifestyle.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, cancer remains a big public health problem, not just in Kenya, and is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular diseases, with 42,000 new cases and 27,000 deaths every year.

The top cancers are breast, cervical, prostate, oesophagal and colorectal cancers.

WHO highlighted the role of national cancer centres, saying they can be a one-stop-shop for prevention, diagnosis, multidisciplinary treatment and supportive care, which makes it easier for patients to navigate services with concentrated expertise, and leads to better results.

Radiotherapy is among the most cost-effective, efficient and widely-used treatments for cancer, but worldwide access remains inadequate.

WHO noted that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries have also experienced disruption to cancer screening and treatment.