In Bangladesh around 13-15 lakh people are suffering from the debilitating disease called cancer. High cost of treatment, lack of adequate radiation facilities, shortage of skilled manpower, and lack of awareness within the community are the main challenges hindering cancer care in Bangladesh. Besides, unavailability of trained medical personnel is a significant barrier in the development of radiation treatment facilities in the country. Therefore, it is high time to take necessary steps to decrease the treatment cost of cancer. Besides, necessary steps should be taken to train medical physicists and therapists in order to provide modern radiation treatment facilities at home.
The National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) statistics suggest that the top 20 causes of death in Bangladesh include four types of cancer – oral, oesophageal, cervical and breast. Experts say that it is very difficult to find out how many cancer patients are receiving treatment around the country, or have gone abroad for treatment, as we do not have a national cancer registry.
According to a WHO study, around 59 per cent of the deaths in Bangladesh are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCD), 10 per cent of which are caused by cancer. Few government hospitals and one or two private ones have radiotherapy/oncology departments while others provide only medical oncology service. A big revolution occurred in the management of cancer when the first linear accelerator was installed at NICRH in 2006.
Reportedly, National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) provide cancer treatment to maximum number of patients. It also contributes to the field of teaching and research. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been very much supportive in the development of manpower of radiation therapy. They also provide significant support in procuring radiation therapy equipment under their two technical cooperation projects for NICRH and BSMMU. Apart from government initiative, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also involved in cancer care.
Cancer is 95 percent curable if it is identified at the primary stage but unfortunately majority of our patients are identified at the advanced stage because of lack of awareness.
Authorities concerned should therefore devise initiatives to make people aware of the cancer. Finally, concerted efforts by the government and private sectors are needed for gradual progress in cancer management.