Cancer Epidemic

22 March 2011
 Cancer deaths in the developing world are expected to surpass the collective toll of the three illnesses targeted by the Millennium Development Goals - HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria - in 2017, according to the World Health Organisation. The challenges to dealing with this epidemic in the developing world are significant. Waiting times for treatment can be lengthy in Vietnam... ...or Costa Rica. Over-crowded wards are common from Tanzania... Sri Lanka. Patients often seek treatment too late because they are ill-informed about cancer and the chance of surviving when it is detected early and treated properly. Given, pictured here, suffered from retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye's retina that typically occurs in early childhood. In developed countries, it is usually diagnosed early and 95% of children are cured. In Tanzania and Kenya, parents have no knowledge of the disease and treatment often arrives too late. As it did for Given. Tragically, Given died in 2008. There is a severe shortage of skilled cancer care professionals to deal with the epidemic. In Africa alone experts believe 3 000 trained cancer care specialists are needed over the next 10 years. But training on such a scale is all but impossible, given the current infrastructure and educational systems in place. The IAEA is therefore pioneering an e-learning programme in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia to accelerate the training of skilled professionals. Radiotherapy is indispensable to cancer care, used in curative treatment and to reduce pain in advanced cancer patients. But many countries in the developing world lack even one radiotherapy machine. The IAEA helps Member States acquire radiotherapy machines. It is working with business partners globally to encourage the development of machines that cost just one-third of the current price, or about US $1 million. Muzne, pictured here, is receiving radiotherapy on an IAEA-facilitated machine at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Tanzania. Health care professionals must be equipped to deal with the types of cancer that are typical in different regions. Cervical cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in Africa. The IAEA will begin a pilot e-learning course on this topic for health professionals in Africa in Spring 2011. This little boy is suffering from an endemic form of Burkitt's Lymphoma, a cancer which often attacks the jaw or facial bones in children. To foster sustainable and comprehensive solutions, the IAEA has created eight model demonstration sites in the developing world where cancer is a major concern and the government has displayed a deep commitment to fighting this disease. Located in Albania, Ghana, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, United Republic of Tanzania, Vietnam and Yemen, they disseminate best practice.
Last update: 15 October 2014