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On World Cancer Day, IAEA Director General Calls for More Access to Radiotherapy

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Much more must be done to make radiotherapy treatment available worldwide, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a video message to mark World Cancer Day.

“We need to do much more than we ever thought it was possible,” Mr Grossi said in the message recorded as part of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) 20 Leaders Campaign to mark the day.  “With radiotherapy we kill tumors, with radiotherapy we ease pain, but in one-third of low- and middle-income countries there is a lack of radiotherapy treatment. Twenty-eight countries in Africa lack a single radiotherapy unit. In these countries a cancer diagnosis is often almost as a death sentence. This must change.”

Radiotherapy is one of the most widely used therapies for cancer treatment, but access to this cost-effective treatment option is limited, or non-existent, in many parts of the world. With a growing cancer incidence worldwide, the need to make radiation medicine more widely available is pressing, particularly in the developing world.  

“Take breast or cervical cancer, these are easily treatable and curable in rich, industrialized nations,” Mr Grossi said in his message, highlighting that this not the case in poor countries, where 300,000 women die of cervical cancer every year. “This is a scandal. This must stop. The IAEA is ready to make radiotherapy treatment available in more countries,” he said.

The IAEA helps countries establish nuclear and radiation medicine services, from resource mobilization to the procurement of equipment and training of medical professionals.

The Agency will mark World Cancer Day at its headquarters with an event on Friday, 7 February, focusing on the role of nuclear and radiation medicine in the fight against cervical cancer. The event, which will be livestreamed, will feature prominent medical experts and high-level panelists and take place at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna.

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