Calls for international cooperation to address global cancer care inequality

By Mason Quah

THE Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has called for international efforts targeting the growing gap in healthcare outcomes across the world.

Some of these issues require heavy systemic changes to achieve. Poverty impacts your risk of cancer in a diverse number of ways.

Lack of good food and nutrition weakens your immune system, gaps in education can lead people to miss symptoms that demand medical attention and are more vulnerable to carcinogenic habits such as tobacco addiction.

Professor Anil d’Cruz, president of the UICC notes disparities in health outcome aren’t simply a matter of impoverished countries not being able to afford the same medical equipment and training.

“Disparities exist within most countries among different populations due to discrimination or assumptions that encompass age, cultural contexts, gender norms, sexual orientation, ethnicity, income, education levels and lifestyle issues,” he explained.

“These factors potentially reduce a person’s chance of surviving cancer – and they can and must be addressed.”

In a study of gay, bisexual and transgender patients receiving treatment for prostate cancer in the US, nearly half reported some type of discrimination from their healthcare provider.

20 per cent said that they received worse care than other patients and 10 per cent said that their doctor appeared to be afraid of them.

This was linked to worse outcomes for both their cancer treatment and for their mental health.

Some countries have attempted to bridge these gaps, with varying levels of success.

In Canada, a strong disparity can be found in the health outcomes of First Nation and Settler peoples.

The indigenous peoples were identified in research to have lower rates of colon and cervical cancer, but poorer survival outcomes. Early screenings for these exist, and effort is being directed towards making these accessible.

Economic analyses have found that investments towards global healthcare will provide a multiplicative return on investment.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that for every dollar invested into cervical cancer prevention, using methods such as HPV vaccines, 26 dollars of economic benefit can be gained from greater participation of women in the workforce.

Prevention is believed to be an achievable factor for 40 per cent of all cancers, according to the WHO.

Vaccination against hepatitis and papillomavirus can prevent several types of cancer, along with regulating carcinogenic products such as asbestos.

Programs such as vaccination also make future missions easier, as supply chains and census data provide better distribution networks for aid.

The pandemic has also been attributed with an increase in unequal healthcare outcomes. The UICC reports that almost three quarters of its member organisations have suffered funding cuts over the pandemic, ranging from 25 to 100 per cent.

The UICC is hoping for progress on both local and systemic levels.
More funding to international health infrastructure and research will see returns down the road, but there is also value in community partnerships driving cancer patients to hospitals.

CEO Dr Cary Adams said: “As individuals, as communities, we can and must come together and break down barriers.

“We have achieved a lot in the last decade in cancer care and control around the world but not addressing inequities in society is slowing our progress.

“Closing the care gap is about fairness, dignity and fundamental rights to allow everyone to lead longer lives in better health.”

The goal of equity in healthcare is unlikely to be solved this World Cancer Day, but the IUCC’s three year campaign towards resolving it is likely to provide much needed publicity to an subject.

Featured Image: Pixabay

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