4 February 2013

Africa: On World Day, UN Nuclear Watchdog Urges Better Cancer Detection in Developing World

Photo: Jacqueline Koch
A young cancer patient receives care from a nurse at the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala (file photo).

Early detection and modern treatment methods are crucial in reducing the millions of annual global deaths caused by cancer, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced today, underscoring its ramped-up efforts in providing the developing world with vital screening and therapy programmes.

At an event held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna to mark the annual World Cancer Day, the UN nuclear watchdog's Director-General, Yukiya Amano, cautioned that despite progress made in fighting the disease, much remained to be done, particularly in low- to middle-income countries where the majority of cancer-related deaths occur.

"Many cancers respond well to treatment and can even be cured," stated Mr. Amano, who acknowledged that "millions of men and women now live normal lives for many decades after diagnosis" when they have access to the necessary medical facilities.

"Often, they die in old age of something other than cancer," he added.

However, out of the 10 million lives taken by cancer each year around the world, he noted that a disproportionate amount of these deaths - almost 70 per cent - occurred in the developing world, where the lack of tools for diagnosis and treatment were contributing to "an immense human tragedy."

"It is estimated that there is a shortage of around 5,000 radiotherapy machines in developing countries," he continued. "That means that millions of people, in Africa and elsewhere, have no access to diagnostic services or treatment."

Spotlighting his agency's efforts in bridging the diagnosis and treatment gap between the developed and developing world, Mr. Amano lamented that in developing countries "too many die of conditions that are actually treatable."

He noted that the IAEA's Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) has already been working to render radiotherapy services available in all countries and is currently supporting over 130 projects in cancer diagnosis, management and treatment.

In addition, the UN agency has already delivered over $260 million in cancer-related assistance to developing countries in the past 30 years.

Mr. Amano also cited plans to establish a Cancer Training Centre at the IAEA's laboratory complex situated in Seibersdorf, located some 40 kilometres outside of Vienna, within the next few years as a place where health professionals from Member States would have access to specialist training and advanced technologies.

World Cancer Day, which is observed on 4 February every year, was initiated in 2005 by the Union for International Cancer Control. This year, the Day is being marked as the world prepares for the UN General Assembly's High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, which includes cancer as well as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, in September. The four ailments cause more than 60 per cent of all global deaths, or more than 35 million fatalities annually.

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InFocus

UN Leader Calls for Better Cancer Detection

A young cancer patient receives care from a nurse at the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala (file photo).

At an event held in Vienna to mark World Cancer Day, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency noted that a shortage of around 5,000 radiotherapy machines in the ... Read more »