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Cancer in the developing countries

31st Jan 2014


By Amal Imad

Cancer is a complex group of diseases which can grow and spread to different parts of the body if it is not diagnosed and treated on time. The epidemic of cancer and the challenge of treating cancer patients are getting severe in the developing countries. According to World Health Organisation, 7.9m deaths worldwide are caused by cancer. 70% of these deaths, approximately 5.5m are now occurring in the developing world. An illness which was once affiliated with affluent countries is now a challenge for poor countries and a burden on disadvantaged population.

Longevity, unplanned urbanisation and universalisation of unhealthy lifestyles are some of the reasons for the rise of cancer in the developing countries. Other factors which are correlated to each other include poverty, mal-nutrition, consumption of tobacco, excessive intake of alcohol and drug addiction. There is a pressing need for creating awareness and educating people about the prevention and treatment of cancer in the developing countries because there are more deaths occurring due to cancer as compared to HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Almost 50% of population in the developing countries suffering from cancer are less than 65 years. Most of the cervical and breast cancer death occur during women’s reproductive years and for many developing countries, cancer in children aged 5-14 is the leading cause of death. Poor and vulnerable people who have no access to cancer care services and cannot afford expensive cancer medicines and treatment are at the risk of getting ill and expiring sooner than those patients who have access to facilities to either prevent or control cancer. Poverty is not only one of the causes of cancer in the developing countries but is also a hindrance for getting timely and effective cancer treatment.

The knowledge and equipment to prevent and control many kinds of cancers exist but are not available to the majority of cancer patients. For example, cervical cancer in women can be prevented with vaccination, regular screening and effective treatment.

Addressing the life-threatening issue of cancer in the developing countries requires efforts at multiple fronts. For instance, the state authority’s collaboration with international pharmaceutical industries is essential to make cancer medicines available in the country at affordable prices. In addition to negotiating affordable prices for patent drugs with the manufacturers, governments should also make generic drugs available to people at affordable price. Civil society groups, both national and international, can play their role by communicating with the public to reduce the risks of cancer. Issues such as lack of medical facilities for prevention and treatment of cancer, high cost and cancer treating equipment and technology, funds for research are can be tackled  through cooperation amongst government and non-government agencies to prevent and treat cancer in the developing countries.

*The copyright of this article is held by the Information and Public Affairs Department of Muslim Aid, UK. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent the point of view of Muslim Aid.

Amal Imad, Information & Public Affairs Department, Muslim Aid


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