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Fighting Cancer in Developing Nations

The Gambian minister of health is briefed at a clinic.
The Gambian minister of health is briefed at a clinic.

Families living in poverty face many challenges. Access to health care is a luxury for some families, and in developing nations, preventable diseases claim many lives. Deadly cases of cancer are increasing dramatically, overtaking the number of people killed by malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined in some countries.

A Growing Problem

According to scientists who spoke at the recent European Cancer Congress, action must be taken to address rising incidences of cancer in developing nations. By the year 2030, there will be approximately 26 million new cases of cancer reported worldwide, many of which will be in poorer countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, the cancer rate is expected to more than double in the next 15 years.

Peter Boyle, president of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, says that a global fund must be established to better care for people with cancer in its earlier stages.

"The big problem is that in the low-resource countries, patients present with advanced disease," says Boyle. "The case fatality rate is very, very high, and we're not in a position to do anything about that because we haven't got our act together."

Building on Success

Boyle emphasized the success of the Geneva-based Global Fund as a potential model for future unified programs to fight cancer in developing nations. The Global Fund has proven highly successful at reducing mortality rates associated with AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and Boyle believes that a similarly large-scale project must be launched to combat cancer.

Cancer isn't the only challenge facing developing nations. Preventable diseases still claim far too many lives due to the fact that millions of families lack access to basic health care. Children are at particular risk, and although much progress has been made to fight child poverty in the world's poorest countries, child mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa remain among the highest in the world.

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