Few people know that Africa’s got a huge cancer problem. Ugandans only have one treatment machine to rely on for cancer cases, and it broke down in April of this year. This led to panic and criticism with 30,000 cancer patients left without treatment.
About three-quarters of Africa’s one billion population has no access to radiotherapy, even though half of patients with cancer need it.
The lack of medical care in Africa is not unique. The world needs over 5,000 more radiotherapy machines to cope with the current cancer cases.
Even though HIV AIDS and the Ebola diseases have been widely publicized by the Western media, cancer has not received the same amount of media attention.
Cancer diagnoses are on the rise across the world, because of several factors: longer life-spans, population growth, increased urbanization and smoking.
Cancer kills every eighth citizen, worldwide. It’s about to become a global epidemic with uncountable economic costs. Right now, treating cancer costs about 1 trillion dollars per year.
However, poorer countries don’t have the resources to cover the expected rise in the number of cases. These resources include machines and trained professionals. Around fifteen African countries do not have radio-therapy at all.
The five-year survival rate, once you get breast cancer is 90 percent in the US and just 50 percent in Uganda. Developing countries receive just 5 percent of the resources, despite having eighty percent of the burden.
Investing in medical equipment and care for cancer could save money and lives in the long term, as it would enable the entire workforce to contribute economy wise.
There are steps forward being made, however. A partnership between the Pennsylvania University and Botswana allowed for doctors to examine photos of the cervix to screen for cancer, remotely.
Such initiatives are useful, but there aren’t enough of them for the time being. And a lot of cancer patients do not have too much time.
For now, cancer patients have limited options: they either die from cancer or use all of their savings to try and the little medical care that is available in their region.
Developing countries also have to use older generations of cancer treating machines, which use a very dangerous radioactive compound, cobalt 60 and are not very effective in treating cancer.
Image Source – Wikipedia