The Max FoundationIt is a struggle to deal with a family member having cancer emotionally, physically and financially. The burden of paying for a family member’s hospital bills makes it difficult to pay for other things like food, shelter and clothing. The Max Foundation in Argentina has stepped up to this challenge by helping cancer patients get the treatment that they need.

Poverty Rates

Argentina’s poverty rate was 35.5% at the end of 2019, which shows a steady increase over the past few years. The poverty rate of children younger than 14 is 53%. The statistics have gotten better in the six years prior to 2018, an 18.7% drop in poverty rates. However, COVID-19 has not been kind to Argentina as the country continues to battle its two-year recession.

Disease

In addition to the poverty rate and pandemic, Argentina is not immune to cancer either. Every year more than 110,000 people are diagnosed with some form of cancer in Argentina. Some of the causes of cancer in this country are tobacco and HPV.

Around 22% of the population smokes and children who are between the ages of 13 and 15 are six points higher than that. Out of all the deaths caused by cancer, 26% are caused by tobacco. Argentina does have the resources to enact preventative measures. The country has even enacted breast cancer screening, although most women do not attend regularly. However, more could still be done.

That’s why organizations like the Max Foundation are so important. Poverty is hard enough to try to overcome when one is healthy let alone when having to fight cancer. Cancer patients need organizations like the Max Foundation, so they have one less thing to worry about during the tough fight for their life.

The Max Foundation

The Max Foundation has been around since 1997. The Rivarola family left Argentina to travel to the U.S. to get cancer treatment for their son Max. The organization was founded when he passed away. Other families in Latin America have children with leukemia just like Max, and the Rivarola family wanted to do something for them.

Now, The Max Foundation provides cancer treatments to countries all around the world. The world has seen that viruses like COVID-19 have no borders and neither does cancer. The Max Foundation almost has no borders as well. It has served 73 countries and given over 11 million cancer treatments to people as of the start of 2017.

The Max Foundation works by offering help to patients whose doctors have recommended them. The organization then gets the medicine to them through the partner companies. The medicine is donated by pharmaceutical companies like The Tanner Pharma Group.

Argentina’s poverty rate has not been helped by the recent pandemic. COVID-19 is not diminishing cancer diagnosis either. But there is still hope. The Max Foundation has been helping cancer patients for years and they are a light in the dark for the cancer patients of Argentina as well as many other countries around the world.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous peoples in Canada have roots in poverty tracing back to the 19th and 20th centuries. They had to relocate to small plots of land called reserves where destruction of their traditional way of life “combined with the poorly organized set-up of reserves resulted in impoverishment for those on the reserves.”

In Canada, 25% of Indigenous peoples live in poverty with 40% of those living under the poverty line being Indigenous children. Many Indigenous peoples died due to lack of shelter, adequate food, access to health care and lack of federal relief services. Today, Indigenous communities continue to suffer at the hands of institutionalized colonial violence.

Housing Inequalities

Several cross-country reserves have declared a State of Emergency due to poor living conditions. Statistics deemed only 56.9% of homes on reserves adequate in 2000 and 43% unsafe and in need of repairs in 2016. In 2016, both reserve shelters and Inuit homes qualified as overcrowded — 28% and 30% respectively.

Some Indigenous people moved off of reserves and into urban centers. Even there, they continued to face economic struggles. Indigenous peoples are twice as likely to live in poverty in comparison to non-Indigenous folk. In 1995, 55.6% of Aboriginal people in urban centers lived in poverty. Meanwhile, in 2003, 52.1% of Indigenous children lived in poverty.

Income Disparities

Impoverishment within the Indigenous community has resulted in fewer on-reserve schools, rising illiteracy and rising unemployment. Indigenous households making an income below $20,000 represented almost 20% of the entire Canadian population; whereas, non-Indigenous homes only represented 9.9%.

Non-Indigenous folk in lower-income homes have a 12.9% outcome of people with major depressive episodes. Meanwhile, Indigenous folk in lower-income homes had a 21.4% outcome — almost double. The values for higher incomes families are much closer; 6.3% for non-Indigenous and 7.7% for Indigenous.

Health Inequities

The Well-Being Index determined that First Nation and Inuit communities ranked on average 20 points lower than non-Indigenous communities. Despite being only 4% of the Canadian population, Indigenous people make up 14% of the population relying on food banks. Smoking and lung cancer statistics also show an overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples. Lower-income Indigenous households reported daily smoking levels at 48.8%.

The lowest-income Indigenous populations also experience disproportionate difficulties in accessing health care. Popular barriers are that Indigenous peoples are “unable to arrange transportation (19.6%); not covered by Non-Insured health benefits (NIHB) (18.4%); could not afford transportation costs (14.6%); prior approval by NIHB denied (14.2%); could not afford the cost of care, service (11.4%).”

Aid

Many community activists and grassroots organizations work tirelessly to help support the Indigenous communities in Canada. Dismantling generational poverty is another focus of activists and organizations. True North Aid is just one of those in the fight for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

True North Aid has decades’ worth of experience. It has an advisory council of four Indigenous Elders, partners and a Board of Directors with over 35 years of experience. Under such leadership, the organization successfully raises awareness for Indigenous struggles. Additionally, it provides home reconstruction aid, water purification technologies and health care aid to Indigenous communities in Canada.

Activists and organizations supporting Indigenous peoples are imperative in the fight to end poverty for Indigenous people. Indigenous communities suffer disproportionately and need advocacy and action.

– Jasmeen Bassi 
Photo: Flickr

Children with Cancer in Mexico
For the last two years, parents of children with cancer in Mexico have been fighting the government due to drug shortages. Children are going months without chemo and those lucky enough to have the treatment are not receiving the drugs that keep the rest of their body safe from the radiation. Children have died waiting for their treatments. Parents are protesting in the streets and taking the word of the President on reform of the corrupt healthcare system with a grain of salt.

Corruption and Reduced Budgets Collide

To the people of Mexico, it does not come as a surprise that the President announced the existence of corruption in the medical industry and the healthcare system. During a speech, the President rebuked the notion that his recent budget cuts aided in the shortage, focusing instead on the healthcare system’s alleged internal corruption. AMLO claimed that pharmaceutical monopolies have gone as far as to withhold drugs from the ill.

However, in May 2019, the first large budget from the current administration hit healthcare. The cuts resulted in the cancellation of surgeries for children and layoffs of nearly 200 people per hospital. Operating on an extremely reduced budget means that hospitals can no longer afford large quantities of necessary medicines. One hospital has had to cancel multiple surgeries due to its inability to afford the normal amount of anesthesia.

Cuts to staff have put more patients at risk as there are not enough nurses to provide the necessary care. Another hospital currently does not have enough nurses for its pediatric floor. Additionally, it is running low on basic supplies and surgical equipment. Meanwhile, Mexican civilians believe both are the root cause of the extreme shortages and they want answers, not deflection.

The Biggest Risk for Children

Cancer is the most predominant reason of death for children in Mexico with an age range of 5 to 14 years old. This type of situation tends to hit families from rural areas the hardest due to the lack of healthcare facilities nearby. Low education rates among Mexico’s poorest make it nearly impossible for parents to know the signs of cancer, too. Malnutrition and consistent illness are not uncommon among extremely impoverished families and it is often too late once they are able to get to a doctor.

Preceding 2005, over half of the children with cancer in Mexico did not receive comprehensive medical care. Now, a child dies from cancer every four hours and the lack of drugs only amplifies the chance of mortality. The mortality rate is 50% but 70% of deaths are preventable if the child receives proper drugs and treatments early on.

Parents Fight Back

On September 4, 2020, parents and family members of children with cancer in Mexico took to the streets of Mexico City to protest drug shortages that have severely hindered their child’s quality of life. Their children have gone months without vital drugs like cardioxane that keep toxicity from chemo away from the heart. Meanwhile, canceled chemotherapy sessions are becoming routine. Cancer, no matter the type, does not yield in times of crisis. Children have died waiting for the reinstatement of treatments or for the refilling of necessary prescriptions.

The march was not the first and will not be the last. Throughout 2020, protests in Mexico have become an everyday occurrence in the fight for necessary cancer drugs for the children of the country. Most of the families that the shortage has afflicted are low-income or in extreme poverty and their only option is to fight to end the suffering of their sick children.

A Single Institute Makes A Difference

Casa De La Amistad (CDLA) is a Mexican organization in Chiapas (one of the poorest states in Mexico) dedicated to helping pediatric patients afflicted with cancer in rural areas. It provides a multitude of services for children diagnosed with cancer and their families. The CDLA works with hospitals spanning over the county and receives a notification when a child is in need of its services. It gives children transportation to and from hospitals for treatments and appointments, housing for them and their families, food, counseling for families and individuals and the continuation of school.

A recent partnership between CDLA and the AbbVie Foundation, Direct Relief has improved the survival rate of the children it provides for. Families are no longer abandoning treatment due to a lack of funds or transportation. In the first three years, the abandonment percentage dropped from 6% to 2%. Children receiving aid from the CDLA had a 50% lower mortality rate in comparison to the national average. Since 2018, CDLA and AbbVie have helped over 300 children, many of whom were on a waitlist.

Children with cancer in Mexico are suffering from a dilapidated healthcare system. Passing the blame does not solve the problem. Children’s lives are at stake but citizens from around the world are trying to make a difference where the government is failing.

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Chile
Healthcare in Chile primarily comes from the state-funded insurance National Health Fund (Fondo National de Salud – FONASA) or from private companies collectively known as Las Instituciones de Salud Previsional (ISAPRE). According to a 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 78% of the population participate in FONASA and around 17-18% enroll in ISAPREs, while 3-4% receive coverage from the armed forces insurance program. A number of newly implemented government reforms in Chile have challenged healthcare inequity to ensure universal healthcare for all.

Morbidity and Mortality

In the 1980s, a series of successful reforms decreased infant mortality rates (from 33 per 1,000 live births in 1980 to only eight per 1,000 in 2013) and improved communicable disease rates, nutrition and maternal and child health. While the health status of Chileans consistently fell below average among OECD nations in recent decades, the life expectancy in Chile in 2015 rose to 79.1 years in the last 40 years, nearly on par with its OECD peers. Determinants of health status include life expectancy, avoidable mortality rates, morbidity rates from chronic diseases and percentage of the population in poor health.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart diseases are identified as the burden of disease in Chile, accounting for 85% of all deaths. Key risk factors include high obesity rates, heavy tobacco use and increasing rates of alcohol consumption. The infant mortality rate is improving but remains high, as are mortality rates from cancer compared to cancer incidence.

Some Effective Government Measures

The Chilean government has undertaken effective measures to address the nation’s most urgent issues through a multi-intervention strategy that targets different population groups and settings:

  • Obesity: According to a 2016 WHO report, 39.8% of the Chilean population was overweight, and another 34.4% was obese. Childhood overweight and obesity rate is particularly problematic at 45%, with no reduction in prevalence over the past 15 years. Chile has implemented nationwide policies to tackle behaviors that cause obesity, especially inadequate physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. At the national level, mass media, such as websites, Twitter, TV and radio adverts, educates the public on healthy food choices and emphasizes the consumption of vegetables and fruits. The government has also mandated labels on packed foods that indicate high caloric content in salt, sugar and fat.
  • Tobacco Use: Tobacco consumption rates in Chile in 2016 stood at 37% (41% among men and 32% among women) of the adult population. Adult smoking rates have declined from 45.3% in 2003 and 39.8% in 2009, a percentage below average in comparison to other nations. Since joining the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2005, Chile has implemented various tobacco control policies, such as prohibiting smoking in public spaces, requiring health warnings on tobacco products and raising taxes on these products.
  • Cancer Care: The OECD projected that cancer could soon become the leading cause of mortality in Chile. Among men, prostate, stomach, lung, colorectal and liver cancer have the highest mortality rates. In women, breast, colorectal, lung, stomach and pancreas cancer account for high mortality rates. To lessen the burden of cancer, Chile has reinforced its cancer care system and launched nationwide programs focused on cervical and breast cancer and cancer drugs for adults and children. From 2011 to 2015, Chile reduced cancer by 4.1%.

Challenging Inequity

The establishment of the National Health System (NHS) in 1952, subsequent expansions and reforms together enabled Chile’s move towards universal coverage with more than 98% of the population having some kind of health insurance. However, inequality remains one of the main challenges in Chile’s two-tier healthcare system, mainly due to the unequal distribution of resources between the underfunded public facilities and the elitist private clinics. Equity monitoring shows less insurance coverage for less educated people, low-income quintiles, residents from rural areas and those with state insurance.

Significant inequalities due to socioeconomic position and residence area persist. According to a study that PLOS Medicine published, the infant mortality rate among the highest educated women was 2.3 times lower than the least educated, while the ratio was 1.4 between urban and rural residence. Risk factors like obesity, alcohol use disorders and cardiovascular risks also disproportionately affected the least educated segment of the population.

Moving Forward

Despite tremendous challenges, healthcare in Chile has improved thanks to the government’s effort to prioritize health reforms. In 2005, Chile launched Universal Access with Explicit Guarantees (AUGE) program that sought to improve access, timeliness and quality of care in the public sector. The OECD assessed that the system of healthcare in Chile is overall “well-functioning, well-organized and effectively governed,” with a particularly robust public healthcare program that operates efficiently on both the central and regional levels. Although challenges such as rising rates of certain NCDs and inequities between sectors and populations persist, the country’s ambitious reforms demonstrate its preparedness to tackle these issues.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Slovenia 
Slovenia is a small, coastal country in Southeastern Europe and is an average country in the EU by many measures. However, the country’s life expectancy is higher than many of its neighbors, despite commonly held unhealthy habits. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Slovenia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Slovenia

  1. As of 2020, the average life expectancy at birth is 81.4 years. Men live to age 78 years on average while women live to about 84 years. This is significantly higher than Slovenia’s neighbors, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, and the EU as a whole. A rapid increase in life expectancy at birth in recent years is likely the cause.
  2. Between 1950 and 2020, life expectancy in Slovenia rose by more than 15 years. The average age of death in 1950 was only 64.7 years.
  3. Life expectancy is greater in southwestern Slovenia than in northeastern Slovenia. The Mediterranean lifestyle in the south is thought to account for some of the difference.
  4. Mortality from cancer is higher than the OECD average. 243 people per 100,000,000 die from cancer, above the average of 201. It ranks third highest for all OECD countries. One reason could be poor cancer management among men. The most common cause of death from cancer is lung cancer. However, the cancer mortality rate has been falling in recent decades, in part due to a decrease in smoking among men.
  5. One study largely attributed the rise in life expectancy in Slovenia to a proportional decline in deaths from circulatory diseases and cancer during that time. There were greater gains for older adults than for adults of working age. Like many countries in the world, Slovenia is expected to face new socioeconomic challenges due to an aging population.
  6. 92 percent of people believe they know someone they can turn to in times of need. This fact might be one of the biggest reasons behind the relatively high life expectancy in Slovenia. A study published in 2002 that followed adults from 18-95 showed that those who had adult children or living parents saw an increase in life expectancy. 
  7. The suicide rate in Slovenia is declining. It still remains high, but it’s at a much lower level than it was 15 years ago when the number of deaths attributed to suicide was 529 people per year. In 2014, 388 people committed suicide which was the first time that the number of deaths fell below 400 in four decades. NGOs have aided in suicide prevention by offering psychological assistance and creating suicide helplines. Ozara is one such organization. They provide psychosocial support for people with chronic mental illness so that they can reintegrate into society.
  8. Compared to the OECD average, Slovenians are less satisfied with life. Despite having a high life expectancy, Slovenians are not particularly satisfied with their lives on average. Wealth inequality is high, with the top 20 percent earning four times as much as the bottom 20 percent.
  9. Smoking and alcohol consumption in Slovenia are greater than average19 percent of Slovenians smoke every day, and it has the fifth-highest alcoholism rate, both of which may contribute to the country’s high, though falling, rate of cardiovascular disease. In 2014, 50 NGOs, including No Excuses Slovenia, prepared amendments to the Restriction of the Use of Tobacco Act called The Slovenian Youth Manifesto on Tobacco, showing that young people are very active in trying to solve Slovenia’s tobacco problem.
  10. They exercise more than the OECD average. Exercise is promoted and made accessible by universities. The people of Slovenia also eat more fruits and vegetables than average. In 2010 the Slovenian government passed legislation for a new School Meals Program that made it mandatory for school lunches to follow dietary guidelines for healthy nutrition. Regular exercise and healthy diets might be helping to balance out the negative effects of some of the bad habits held by Slovenians. 

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Slovenia show that the country has a number of issues to address in the area of health. However, life expectancy in this country is relatively high. With increased awareness of the mental and physical health challenges the country faces, Slovenia’s life expectancy will likely continue to increase.

– Caleb Carr
Photo: Pixabay

Childhood Cancer in Developing Countries
Although people have made significant progress in treating communicable diseases in childhood, one cannot say the same about reducing childhood cancer in developing countries. In fact, many did not consider it a public health problem in the developing world until recently. The mortality rate is currently an alarming 80 percent in developing countries with 160,000 new cases each year. Tragically, many could receive treatment from generic medications if they receive the right foreign aid according to Republican Congressman Michael McCaul. Children with cancer living in low to middle-income countries are four times as likely to die of their disease as children living in high-income countries. 

Challenges Ahead

In order to reduce morbidity rates from childhood cancer in developing countries, people on the ground will face significant challenges. U.S. researchers reported that the median cost for 15 different generic drugs was only $120 in South Africa and $654 in the U.S., yet many people cannot even afford the lowest drug prices. The reason is that the drugs are actually more expensive when compared to per capita GDP (the average person’s total economic output). In Australia, generic drug prices were 8 percent of per capita GDP compared to 33 percent in India. The question of how many people will be unable to receive treatment despite lower drug prices remains. Another challenge is that many children will have already reached the late stages of the disease and perhaps even have comorbid HIV as with the Burkitt lymphoma trial in Malawi. The trial failed to reach two-thirds the cure rate of developing countries despite patients receiving intensive chemotherapy treatment.

New Legislation Passed

Yet there is hope. The U.S. House of Representatives has recently passed a bill to address the issue. McCaul and Democrat Congressman Eliot Engel introduced the Global Hope Act of 2019 and demonstrated that the two parties are still capable of swiftly passing bipartisan legislation despite increased polarization in the country.

The congressmen introduced the bill on December 10, 2019, and the House passed the bill on January 27, 2020. The bill aims to improve the survival rate of children living with cancer in developing countries. It will support the Global Health Organization’s initiative to increase the survival rate of children with cancer to 60 percent by 2030.

How it Works

One of the main focal points of the bill is improving the availability and cost of existing medicines and developing new ones. People have already developed much of the infrastructure from previous aid directed toward communicable diseases, but the bill seeks to enhance infrastructure as well. As outlined by the foreign affairs committee’s press release, the bill will help increase the survival rate of children with cancer by:

  • Supporting efforts to train medical personnel and develop healthcare infrastructure to diagnose, treat, and care for children with cancer
  • Leveraging private sector resources to increase the availability of cancer medicines
  • Improving access to affordable medicines and technology that are essential to cancer treatment
  • Coordinating with international partners to expand research efforts to develop affordable cancer medicines and treatments

Childhood cancer is the second leading cause of death in childhood worldwide, second only to accidents. Though the issue remained in the shadow of communicable diseases for years, people are starting to take notice. The new legislation passed in the house addresses many of the barriers to a high survival rate for childhood cancer in developing countries.

– Caleb Carr
Photo: United Nations

cancer in developing countriesMajor progress has been made in recent years in combating leading threats to global health such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, there is a lesser-discussed global health problem that is growing in developing nations. Eight million cancer cases across the world occur in developing countries, accounting for 57 percent of all reported cancer cases worldwide. Ami Bhatt and her coworkers at the School of Medicine at Stanford University are working to change these numbers by reducing cancer in the developing world.

Background on Ami Bhatt

In 2009, Bhatt became aware of the growing danger of cancer in developing countries through her work at Harvard University. She knew that something had to be done. She started a nonprofit with another fellow in her program, Franklin Huang, who became equally as passionate about this topic. The organization, called Global Oncology (GO), has launched numerous programs and projects since its start in 2012. All of them are aimed at creating better care for cancer patients in low and middle-income countries through new technology, education and medical training. In 2014, Bhatt started her work at the Stanford School of Medicine. Since then she has mobilized her coworkers to further explore the pandemic of cancer in the developing world and find ways to combat it.

Educational and Tracking Resources

Working with a design firm in sub-Saharan Africa, Bhatt was able to develop materials with simple messaging and visuals to help patients in developing nations understand potential treatment options, side effects and complications. Many patients in these low-income areas drop out of treatment because they do not fully understand the process of treatments like chemotherapy. These materials are aimed at solving this problem and keeping more patients in treatment. They are currently being used in cancer wards across Rwanda, Botswana and Haiti.

GO also partnered with the National Cancer Institute to develop an interactive map of cancer researchers and program managers across the world. This resource is the first of its kind and has increased interaction and collaboration between those working in the field. The map gives experts equal access to contemporary knowledge and technology being used to combat cancer in the developing world.

Work in Nigeria and Rwanda

In 2017, Bhatt and her colleagues at GO collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria to identify two hospitals that could make a huge impact by taking their cancer care programs to the next level. The northern portion of Nigeria is Muslim-majority while the southern area is Christian majority. For this reason, they chose ABUTH hospital in the north and Lagos University Teaching Hospital in the south.

The programs implemented at these hospitals were aimed toward outlining potential opportunities for hospital faculty to carry out improvements in their cancer programs. After this program had been in place for a few months, Bhatt and a few of her colleagues traveled to Nigeria to complete a comprehensive needs assessment. This formed the foundation for the recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Health that were included in the Nigerian 2018-2023 National Cancer Control Plan.

While teaching classes to physicians in Rwanda, Bhatt discovered that patients with leukemia were being treated with hydroxyurea, a drug that only prolongs a patient’s life for about five years. She found out that the country had lost free access to an alternate drug called Gleevec, which can prolong someone’s life for up to 30 years. Bhatt and her Stanford colleagues spent weeks lobbying the Rwandan Ministry of Health as well as the drug manufacturer to restore free access to Gleevec in Rwanda.

Sixty-five percent of those who die from cancer yearly live in developing countries. Ami Bhatt recognized the existence and implications of this statistic in 2009. She has made it her life’s work to battle cancer in the developing world ever since. As more and more people recognize cancer as a major problem in the developing world, Bhatt and her team get closer and closer to winning the battle.

Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

eight Facts About Breast CancerBreast cancer is a deadly disease caused by cells that grow out of control in the breast. It mostly occurs in women, but men are also at risk of developing the disease as well. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and is one of the leading cancers in the world, and has only gotten worse over the years in many countries. Here are eight facts about breast cancer in developing countries.

8 Facts About Breast Cancer

  1. 600,000 women and men died from breast cancer around the world last year. That is one death every 50 seconds, and since 2012 it has been the leading cause of death from cancer in all of the developing countries.
  2. New breast cancer cases around the world have doubled in the last 30 years. There were two million cases in just 2018 alone. Most cases came from areas in North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
  3. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women in 140 out of 184 countries. Lack of awareness has proven to be the main reason why women with the disease are often too late to treat it.
  4. Five percent of global spending on cancer is aimed at developing countries. Breast cancer accounted for $26 billion needed in developing countries, with the money going towards healthcare, screening and education.
  5. In developing countries, breast cancer is detected in the later stages. Women do not usually detect it until it reaches Stage III, but it is harder to treat once it reaches that stage due to how much the disease has already spread around the breast. Little access to treatment and lack of awareness are the main reasons why it is too late before the patient is treated. 48 percent of women in Latin America had Stage III breast cancer before they found out.
  6. Since 2016, 70 percent of breast cancer deaths occurred in developing countries. Women have longer lifespans and live a better lifestyle in the more developed countries, which can play a factor as to why women in developing countries can develop the disease earlier.
  7. Breast cancer diagnosis in Australia number 95 per 100,000 people. Australians also have a 10 percent lifetime risk. Genetic mutation and family history are the main reasons why Australia currently has the highest incident rates in the world.
  8. Most breast cancer deaths occur in women 50 years and older. The risk of breast cancer increases with age due to abnormal changes in the cells as someone gets older.

NGOs Helping

The disease has taken many lives and is still the most common cancer in women and in developing countries. However, there are organizations dedicated to stopping the disease for good. The Susan G. Komen foundation is the leading breast cancer organization in the world that is currently using their donations toward research and education for all women with breast cancer. Another example is The Young Survival Coalition, an organization that focuses on treating women under 40 who develop the disease. It uses the donations toward research and life improvement for women who have it and who survived it. All these facts point towards a bright future for the fight against breast cancer.

– Reese Furlow
Photo: Pixabay

Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

Thousands of Nigerians die every year from cancer. Though deaths are mostly preventable, Nigeria lacks the infrastructure, equipment and health care professionals necessary to treat its cancer victims. Furthermore, the high cost of cancer treatment prevents many Nigerians from seeking it soon enough to cure it. Yet the Nigerian government is improving Nigeria’s cancer treatment and making it easier for Nigerians to access it. This article will reveal the future of cancer treatment in Nigeria by first explaining why so many Nigerians die from cancer, and then listing the solutions that people are proposing and implementing to eradicate it.

Cancer in Nigeria

The World Health Organization identifies cancer as the second leading cause of death around the world. It is responsible for 70 percent of deaths in low- and middle-income countries. This is more than the number of deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. In Nigeria, around 72,000 Nigerians die each year from cancer among the more than 100,000 cancer diagnoses. The two most common, and often treatable, forms of cancer in Nigeria are breast and cervical cancer.

Specifically, Nigerian men suffer from mostly prostate, colorectal, liver, stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nigerian women suffer from mostly breast, cervical, colorectal, ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian women, 71,022, is greater than the number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian men, 44,928.

Reasons for Nigerian Cancer Deaths

First and foremost, many Nigerians are unable to reach physicians who can diagnose and treat their cancer. Additionally, when they are able to get the treatment they need, their cancer is in such an advanced state that any treatment they receive fails to save their lives. Thirdly, Nigeria has not had a national plan to control cancer or a national registry to track trends about who has cancer and where they live for most of its history.

In addition, Nigerians often do not have the money to pay for cancer treatment. On top of this, many Nigerians who suffer from cancer do not receive enough information about cancer to motivate them to seek immediate medical attention.

There are also infrastructure limitations as Nigeria currently only has four functional cancer treatment centers, which is not enough to treat the immense number of Nigerian citizens who suffer from cancer. Furthermore, in a population of more than 200 million, there are only nine radiation therapy machines. At any time, some or all of these machines might be broken, sometimes for months. Nigeria additionally lacks well-equipped treatment centers and an adequate amount of qualified health professionals.

Goals with Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

The current state of cancer treatment in Nigeria might look dreadful, however, Nigerians are making great efforts to improve the care it provides to Nigeria’s cancer victims with the help of partners like the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society. On April 13, 2015, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health launched the Cancer Control Plan (CCP). This plan sets the course for the Ministry of Health to improve cancer treatment in Nigeria from 2018 to 2022. The goals included in the CCP that Nigeria intends to reach to improve its response to cancer are:

  • ” Increased access to screening and detection of cancer
  • Improved access to quality and cost-effective cancer treatment
  • Improved end-of-life care for patients and their families
  • Increased public awareness about the disease
  • Improved data collection and the process of spreading information
  • Effective coordination of cancer resources for Nigeria”

Progress

A major stepping-stone in the advancement of cancer treatment in Nigeria is the construction of the world-class Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Advanced Cancer Treatment Centre. This facility emerged to ensure that the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer are available to many more Nigerians and is equipped with the most innovative cancer therapy solutions from Varian Medical Systems. This facility can treat 100 patients a day and provide more advanced training for 80 health care professionals. Predictions determine that this facility will serve as a model for future cancer research facilities throughout West Africa.

Even though Nigeria has a long way to travel to create a cancer treatment system on par with those of high-income countries like the United Kingdom or Switzerland. The goals listed above will take a great effort to reach. Yet, the fact that Nigeria is already making progress towards advancing its cancer treatment system proves the bright future of cancer treatment in Nigeria is already here.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr