Senegal to Offer Free Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment

(file photo).
20 September 2019

Johannesburg — The government of Senegal will begin to offer free breast or cervical cancer chemotherapy in public hospitals from October 2019, reports the BBC.

About 70% of all cancer deaths occur in developing countries. The World Health Organization estimates that HPV infections cause approximately 68 000 cases of cervical cancer each year in Africa. 34 out of every 100 000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 23 out of every 100 000 women die from cervical cancer every year.

"We are relieved because these are the most common types of cancers affecting women here," says Dr Fatma Guenoun, president of the Senegalese Anti-Cancer League.

The government will reimburse 60% of the costs for the other types of cancers.

Countries like Botswana, Kenya and Rwanda have started to provide cancer care in their national efforts to achieve universal health coverage, while in Tanzania patients have a right to be treated for free, once they are diagnosed. Prior to diagnosis, they have to pay for screening and any necessary medication mostly out-of-pocket.

The Senegalese government has allocated an estimated U.S.$1.6 billion for this initiative. In 2015, the government agreed to cover at least 30% of the cost of treating all cancers.

Many other obstacles hinder the country from effectively and affordably treating cancer. Alongside scarce medical care, many Senegalese citizens have little medical knowledge or education. Also, over 15 million people live in Senegal, but only a handful of doctors focus on cancer.

Dr Benjamin Anderson, professor of surgery and global health medicine at the University of Washington, says more mammograms, which detect the presence of breast cancer, need to be offered to women in Senegal and that the public and healthcare providers need to be educated on the treatments available.

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