February 4 has been World Cancer Day every year for twenty years.The theme of this edition is “Closing the care gap: Everyone deserves cancer care” A day devoted to prevention, research and the fight against the stigmatization of the disease. An opportunity to establish the full picture of the situation in Burundi.
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, or nearly one in six deaths according to the World Health Organization(WHO). The Global Cancer Observatory(Globocan) also estimates that by 2030 the number of cancer deaths worldwide is expected to approach 13million per year i.e an increasing of 33%.
According to the Globocan, 7929 persons have been diagnosed cancer and 5701 died of cancer in 2020 in Burundi. Cervix uteri cancer stands out as the most diagnosed and deadliest followed by breast cancer, both being specifical to women. In the third position stands prostate cancer, claiming the title of the most devastating among men.
Where is Burundi in the fight against cancer?
In 2011, the Ministry of Public Health and the Fight against AIDS set up a program to fight against chronic non-communicable diseases, including cancer. Through this programme, the ministry has undertaken to set up a national cancer reference centre, to draw up technical documents for the treatment of cancer, to strengthen the capacities of healthcare providers in the fight against cancer, to educate the population with regard to chronic non-communicable diseases, in particular cancer.
Since then, some notable achievements are to be noted:
- The opening of screening center which aims to support the only anapath laboratory at the Kamenge University Hospital in the cytological and histological diagnosis of diseases in general and cancer in particular. It allows early detection of certain cancers that killed patients because they were detected late.
- Tanganyika Care Polyclinic came at the right time with an oncology service allowing patients to benefit from specialized surgery but also to offer them chemotherapy.
- June 2020 saw the birth of a specialized cancer care center at the Kinindo medical and surgical center(CMCK). The center has already acquired a certain notoriety and has already established itself as a reference in the treatment of cancers in Burundi. The center treats 26 types of cancer.
However, the road ahead is still long….
Despite some progress in the fight against cancer, some challenges remain to be met, in particular the lack of awareness and education, limited access to primary prevention and early detection services, delay in diagnosis and treatment, limited access in pain relief, shortage of oncologists, lack of infrastructure and equipment for treatment. Moreover, the government should set up a subsidy policy for cancer diagnosis and treatment, since treatment is not within the reach of the poorest. Cancer is a preventable disease. Indeed, a third of cancers are preventable according to the WHO. Cancer prevention begins with the fight against risk factors which are smoking, alcoholism, malnutrition, physical inactivity.Cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment when identified early, resulting in a greater probability of surviving as well as less morbidity and less expensive treatment.