MANILA: The World Health Organization (WHO) launched new guidelines to improve the chances of survival for people living with cancer by ensuring that health services can focus on diagnosing and treating the disease earlier.
The announcement of the guidelines was made in conjunction with World Cancer Day on Saturday.
WHO encouraged countries to take the following steps to implement the new guidance so that healthcare planners can improve early diagnosis of cancer and ensure prompt treatment, especially for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers.
“This will result in more people surviving cancer. It will also be less expensive to treat and cure cancer patients,” WHO said in a statement.
The three steps to early diagnosis are:
– Improve public awareness of different cancer symptoms and encourage people to seek care when these arise;
– Invest in strengthening and equipping health services and training health workers so they can conduct accurate and timely diagnostics; and
– Ensure people living with cancer can access safe and effective treatment, including pain relief, without incurring prohibitive personal or financial hardship.
In the latest WHO figures released last week it said that 8.8 million people die from cancer each year, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. One problem is that many cancer cases are diagnosed too late. Even in countries with optimal health systems and services, many cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when they are harder to treat successfully.
“Diagnosing cancer in late stages, and the inability to provide treatment, condemns many people to unnecessary suffering and early death,” says Dr Etienne Krug, Director of WHO’s Department for the Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.
The WHO official added that challenges are clearly greater in low- and middle-income countries, which have lower abilities to provide access to effective diagnostic services, including imaging, laboratory tests, and pathology which are all keys to helping detect cancers and plan treatment.
Aside from that countries also currently have different capacities to refer cancer patients to the appropriate level of care.
WHO encouraged these countries to prioritize basic, high-impact and low-cost cancer diagnosis and treatment services.
The organization also recommended reducing the need for people to pay for care out of their own pockets, which prevents many from seeking help in the first place.
Detecting cancer early also greatly reduces cancer’s financial impact: Not only is the cost of treatment much less in cancer’s early stages, but people can also continue to work and support their families if they can access effective treatment in time. In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer through healthcare expenditure and loss of productivity was estimated at $ 1.16 trillion.