ABOUT 1,00,000 people dying of cancer every year in Bangladesh, as physicians and government officials said at a discussion marking World Cancer Day in Dhaka on Monday, comes to be a grave concern in that facilities for the treatment of cancer has so far only been inadequate. The cancer treatment scene is further compounded by the fact, as the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital director puts it, between 2,50,000 and 3,00,000 people become new cancer patients every year in Bangladesh, with the total number of cancer patients thought to have reached between 1.2 million and 1.5 million. But there are only nine public hospitals and 11 private hospitals for the treatment of such an overwhelming number of patients. The number of hospitals treating cancer patients is far too inadequate. The Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital director, quoting from World Health Organisation recommendations, said that there is the need for at least 160 fully-fledged cancer hospitals. This all suggests that the government should take up the issue seriously, have plans chalked up and act accordingly.
Yet, the diagnosis of cancer has so far also been problematic in Bangladesh. Cancer in 90 per cent of the patients in Bangladesh could be diagnosed in advanced stages whereas in developed countries, 90 per cent of the cases are diagnosed in early stages. If cancer can be diagnosed early, with expeditious treatment, it could be cured in 30 per cent of the cases. Such a proposition speaks volumes about the lack of preparedness in cancer treatment in Bangladesh. Experts, therefore, say that hospitals for cancer treatment should be set up at least in each district headquarters so that cancer could be diagnosed early through timely screening. There is then the issue of poor awareness of cancer and for the lack of proper treatment facilities, many having cancer depend on ayurvedic and homoeopathic treatment. While this again reinforces the demand that there should be more hospital equipped to diagnose and treat cancer, it also points to a lack of awareness, which the government has failed to create. Cancer also pauperises families of the patients as the treatment is highly expensive. The government should, therefore, as experts suggest, think if it can at least subsidise the treatment of cancer. Such a step of the government could very well save families from being paupers.
The government, under the circumstances, must take up the issue of cancer treatment seriously. It must upgrade the existing public hospitals treating cancer and set up hospitals or at least cancer units at public hospitals in the district headquarters for timely, early and proper screening of cancer. It must run awareness campaigns and subsidise cancer treatment so that not only the patients and families are saved but also the government in its spending on the national health care.
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