Cancer Care in Mauritius

Cancer Care in MauritiusMauritius is an African island nation, located approximately 500 miles east of Madagascar, with a population of around 1,235,000 people. Like many low and middle-income countries (LMICs), Mauritius has high rates of cancer diagnoses and deaths. However, government programs, with the help of international funding and collaboration, are helping to improve the nation’s cancer survival rate by targeting early diagnosis, healthier lifestyles and more advanced forms of treatment.

Cancer in LMICs

While cancer deaths are falling in high-income countries due to successful funding of prevention programs and modern health care technologies, the number of people dying from cancer in LMICs is on the rise. Around 60% of new cancer cases globally are diagnosed in LMICs. Furthermore, where less than half of cancer patients in high-income nations die from the disease, 66% of those diagnosed in LMICs do not survive it.

Challenges when trying to reduce cancer-related deaths in LMICs include the cost of cancer medication and relevant medical technologies, a dearth of oncology specialists and the perception that it is not a major public health issue. Across Africa, only 23 countries possess radiation therapy centers. Radiation, the most common cancer treatment, is not available to those in 29 African nations unless they can travel abroad. In the last 20 years, cancer cases have doubled in the continent.

Cancer Care in Mauritius

In May 2021, the Mauritian government announced to establish two new hospitals, designed to specialize in cancer care by late 2022. These are the now-operational and internationally recognized cancer centers, Coromandel Hospital and the St. Helene Clinic. Groupe Filatex, an energy company based in Madagascar funded the project. The company provided the estimated funding of $50 million to PolyClinique De L’Ouest Ltee to execute the project. The new centers have provided 230 beds dedicated to cancer patients and their treatment. Prior to this intervention, cancer care in Mauritius struggled to meet demand, with only one radiotherapy and oncology center available.

In 2019, cancer was the third most common cause of death for Mauritians, accounting for approximately 12.8% of mortalities that year. In recent years, the Mauritius National Cancer Registry has recorded an increase in cancer diagnoses for both men and women. The five most common types of cancer in Mauritian men are prostate, colorectal, lung, stomach and lymphoma. Among the nation’s women, the most common types of cancer are breast, uterus, colorectal, ovary and cervix uteri.

The Mauritian government has announced more projects to build on the success of the existing cancer centers. In 2022, the government decided to invest in another state-of-the-art cancer hospital, this time in Solferino. The new center will provide treatment with the use of technologies such as 3-D conformal Radiotherapy, Image-Guided Radiation Therapy and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy. The radiology unit will have X-ray, CT-scan, MRI, echography and mammography machines and the hospital will include stem cell and bone marrow transplant units.

Looking Ahead

Mauritius has already made considerable progress in improving cancer prevention and care. It has significantly reduced the number of cervical cancer cases through efforts like its HPV vaccination and screening program. The nation has also created a National Cancer Control Program (operating from 2022 to 2025) to support improvements in early diagnoses, research, treatment and palliative care. These efforts and trends offer hope for even more progress in the fight against cancer in Mauritius.

– Martha Probert
Photo: Wikimedia