Half of surveyed countries not prepared to prevent and manage cancer, according to WHO

Categories: Policy.

A WHO survey released 1 February 2013 shows that even though countries are committed to developing cancer plans and policies, many countries are struggling to integrate them into a wider national health plan. According to the survey, many countries lack decisive leadership and institutional capacity to ensure adequate national funding for cancer control. Only 17% of African countries and 27% of low-income countries have the budget and support to implement cancer control.

Cancer is a leading cause of deaths, but it should not be a “death sentence” according to Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director – Geneva. He said: “Cancer should not be a death sentence anywhere in the world as there are proven ways to prevent and cure many cancers.” Although cancer killed 7.6 million people worldwide in 2008, many types of cancer such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and colorectcal cancer can be cured if detected early. Research also suggests that a third of cancers are due to modifiable risks including obesity, alcohol, infections and tobacco.

One of the reasons that countries have difficulty taking action against cancer is that less than half of countries have population-based cancer registries. Data on numbers and types of cancer cases are critical for the development of effective national policies.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has introduced the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (GICR) to help with gathering cancer data. The first regional hub to support this initiative was launched in Mumbai, India, in 2012. The second regional hub,in Izmir, Turkey, will start to operate 2013. The African Network of Cancer Registries, which provides support to registries across the continent, expanded significantly over the last year.

Cancer registries will help measure indicators set by the WHO, and will measure cancer incidence, the availability of interventions such as cervical cancer screening and palliative care for canner patients. Furthermore, it will promote the monitoring of cancer risk factors such as unhealthy diet, alcohol abuse and tobacco abuse.

More information about the survey can be found on the WHO website