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World Cancer Day 2020: Reviewing Accomplishments and Planning for Progress

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Personnel of the Uganda Cancer Institute inspect the Bhabatron II, a cobalt-60 unit donated by from the Government of India and subsequently installed and commissioned with IAEA support. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

With life expectancies becoming longer and people increasingly adopting new and sometimes unhealthy lifestyles, cancer is on the rise worldwide and expected to grow by up to 60 percent by 2030.

However, these trends are counterbalanced by more promising developments: Access to cancer diagnosis, life-saving treatments and palliative care has broadened in the last ten years—new technologies have been refined and introduced into clinical practices, governments are increasingly willing to design or expand national cancer control strategies, and international support for action continues to grow.

Each year on 4 February, World Cancer Day provides an opportunity to review  some of the IAEA’s accomplishments in the fight against cancer.

In keeping with its mandate to promote and enlarge the contribution of nuclear science to development, the IAEA has supported the specialist training of oncologists, medical physicists and radiotherapists, facilitated the assessment of, and provided recommendations for, existing cancer control services, procured new equipment and infrastructure and guided the elaboration of national and regional policies. In the last year:

Young doctors at the Republic Oncology Research Centre. (Photo: O. Pellet/IAEA)

  • Following IAEA support in the training of oncology nurses, radiotherapists and other medical professionals, on 18 August, Tajikistan’s second radiotherapy centre opened. Based in the Sughd Region, the new centre means  that cancer patients in the region no longer have to travel over 300 kilometres of mountainous roads to reach the country’s only other operational radiotherapy clinic in Dushanbe.
  • The IAEA has supported over 20 cancer-related national and regional projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, which has led to the delivery of brachytherapy systems, the launch of a unique Master’s programme in advanced radiotherapy and the training of over 100 Fellows to deliver radiotherapy and nuclear medicine services effectively.
  • The IAEA entered into partnership with the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, United States, to combat childhood cancers in developing countries, where children are four times more likely to die of the disease than in high-income countries, due to a lack of affordable treatment and quality care options. The partnership will raise awareness of childhood cancers, mobilize resources and to coordinate further training for radiotherapy professionals.
  • Following the 2016 breakdown of Uganda’s single operating radiotherapy machine, the IAEA supported the resumption of radiotherapy services in the country. The IAEA’s Human Health Programme works to deliver a holistic approach to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, by coordinating the use of nuclear techniques to prevent, diagnose and treat patients.
  • Following scientific breakthroughs in the fields of imaging research, treatment planning and dose delivery, the IAEA is increasingly supporting the deployment of image-guided brachytherapy, which has led to better outcomes and a higher quality of life for patients.

A new roadmap has been developed by the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) to help countries design national cancer control programmes. (Photo: IAEA)

In collaboration with the WHO and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the IAEA also conducts imPACT Reviews to evaluate a country’s capacities and needs, as part of comprehensive cancer control programme, through its Division of the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).

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