Cancer has claimed about 10 million lives in the world in 2018 and is growing at a fast rate in low and middle-income countries. To Prevent and Lower Cancer Deaths countries need to implement universal healthcare for all, which will help to stop more spread of this condition. Already the disease affects a large number of people, and as per the National Cancer Registry Programme and India Council of Medical Research (ICMR), more than 1,300 Indians die every year due to cancer. It is estimated that population aging will lead to a 63 percent increase in the number of cancer cases between 2018 and 2040. In India, the risk of dying from cancer before 75 years of age is 7.34 percent in males and 6.28 percent in females. Cancer incidences are only going to rise and steps must be taken by nations to curb cancer-related deaths in the future. Countries must adopt preventative measures and early screenings, to battle cancer effectively and not resort to a ‘fatalism’ mentality.

How Can Countries Prevent and Lower Cancer Deaths?

When it comes to cancer prevention and treatment, lower and middle-income countries are facing problems as their health systems are already overburdened. Countries need to adopt specific measures and tailored approaches that work for regions to address the cancer epidemic. Some large scale measures can be implemented in all countries to beat the threat of cancer. About 30-50 percent of cancers in the world are preventable and they can be curtailed using inexpensive methods in developing nations. Immunization is one such method and many cancers are preventable through immunization. Cancers caused by carcinogenic infections like HPV and hepatitis B can be prevented by immunization. Liver and cervical cancer are preventable to a large extent through vaccination programmes. According to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, vaccination coverage and cervical screenings can help prevent up to 13.4 million cervical cancer cases by 2069.

Tobacco accounts for about 22 percent of cancer-related deaths globally and policies curbing the use of tobacco products can lower cancer risk of cancer and increase life expectancy in nations. Promotion of healthy lifestyles is another way to lower cancer incidences. Regular exercise, healthy diet, no alcohol use can not only lower the risk for cancer but other diseases too. If primary care services are strengthened in emerging economies like India, it paves the way for early detection. Early detection allows for more chances of survival and can lower deaths considerably. Secondary and tertiary services and palliative care must be effective too to lower cancer incidences. Diagnosis and screenings like mammography can increase survival outcomes in cancer patients. Advanced treatment facilities with skilled cancer specialists and sophisticated oncology units with trained healthcare personnel are also crucial to increase cancer survival rates. Facilities offering surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy must be well-equipped as these options are more effective when these cancers are detected early.

Governmental Policies and Implementation

Governments must ensure that budgets are allocated to develop healthcare infrastructure that supports cancer prevention and treatment. Health systems that are robust, can not only tackle cancer but also many other diseases in the long run. Developing strong policies and implementing them effectively can help in lowering cancer deaths in developing nations. A good National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP) can allow nations to collaborate with all stakeholders and address cancer-related issues in an effective manner. Building a strong cancer eco-system and including both public and private players can help address cancer woes in nations.

Rwanda, a developing nation, could very well be the first country that wipes out cervical cancer. The East African nation initiated vaccination efforts to prevent cervical cancer in 2013. Community health workers and nurses spread awareness among Rwandan citizens using pictures of women’s reproductive organs, explaining how cervical cancer could affect their daughters. They worked towards eliminating any myths and taboos surrounding vaccination and Rwanda now has excellent HPV vaccination coverage, with its health ministry reporting that 93 percent of girls receive the vaccine. Being prepared is the first step towards lowering cancer incidences and improving cancer care. Other nations can follow suit and put in efforts to prevent cancer deaths by implementing health policies effectively.