By Cecilia Ologunagba
Abuja – The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday outlined ways to step-up
cancer services for over seven million lives in low and middle-income countries across the world.
The world body gave the outline in a statement issued in Geneva to commemorate the 2020 World Cancer Day.
The day is annually marked worldwide on Feb. 4 to raise awareness on prevention and treatment of cancer.
WHO highlighted a wide range of proven interventions to prevent new cancer cases. These include controlling
the use of tobacco (responsible for over 25 per cent of cancer deaths).
Other interventions are: vaccination against hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer, eliminating cervical cancer by
vaccinating against HPV, screening and treatment.
“Implementing high-impact cancer management interventions that bring value for money and ensuring access
to palliative care including pain relief.”
WHO warned that if current trends continued, the world would see a 60 per cent increase in cancer cases over the next two decades.
The UN health agency stated that the greatest increase (an estimated 81 per cent) in new cases would occur in low-and middle-income
countries where survival rates were low.
“This is largely because these countries have had to focus limited health resources on combating infectious diseases and
improving maternal and child health, while health services were not equipped to prevent, diagnose and treat cancers.”
In 2019, it noted, more than 90 per cent of high-income countries reported that comprehensive treatment services for
cancer were available in public health system compared to less than 15 per cent of low-income countries.
The WHO statement quoted Dr Ren Minghui, the Assistant Director-General, Universal Health Coverage/Communicable and
Non-communicable Diseases, as saying that “It is a wake-up call to all.
“It is a wake-up call to all of us to tackle the unacceptable inequalities between cancer services in rich and poor countries.
“If people have access to primary care and referral systems, cancer can be detected early, treated effectively and cured.
Cancer should not be a death sentence for anyone, anywhere.”
According to the statement, it is possible to achieve progress in poorer countries.
It stated that WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) were set to
release two coordinated reports on World Cancer Day (Feb. 4, 2020).
It said that the report was in response to governments’ calls for more research into the scope and potential policies and programmes
to improve cancer control.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, said “at least seven million lives would be saved over the next decade
by identifying the most appropriate science for each country situation by basing strong cancer responses on universal health coverage
mobilising stakeholders to work together.”
Globally, the most common cancers are cervical, prostate, colon and rectal (colorectal) cancers.