Globally, cancer is one of the leading causes of non-communicable diseases and its associated deaths. The global burden of cancer has risen to 19.3 million cases and 10 million deaths in 2020.
Asia alone has 9.8 million new cases and 5.8 million deaths in 2020. In some countries, premature deaths from cancer are high but decreasing and are projected to meet the SDG target made for Universal Healthcare 2030. Government personnel's designated at Ministry of Health dedicate a significant proportion of their time working on improving access to cancer prevention and treatment worldwide. However, there also needs to be more access to surgery, radiation therapy, imaging, and pathology. The United States and other countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Korea, Israel and Australia are considered high-income or developed countries with broad access to resources for wide-scale cancer prevention programs and modern treatment facilities compared to developed countries like India and China.
Prevention and treatment efforts depend on Health system capacity and formulating response. Radiation therapy is the most common way cancer is treated. In India, the number of people who prematurely die from cancer is still not slowing down due to limited resources and a lack of health workers to prevent and treat cancer. India has fewer patients who receive external beam radiotherapy than other countries but has a good capacity for mammography, CT scanners, and MRI scanners required for diagnosis and treatment. However, we all know that resources by themselves will not improve cancer care. There are other challenges for controlling cancer in India comparing other countries include:
· No Palliative care (Home-based/community-based care availability)
· Low availability of opioids for pain management
Globally, about 60% of the countries do not have available palliative care. Palliative care is the most valuable and essential part of prevention and treatment as early as possible with the help of palliative care specialists. These specialists are a team of doctors, nurses, registered dieticians, therapists, and other health workers. They provide physical healing and heal the patient’s psychological, social, and spiritual problems. India has only 272 surgeons per 10,000 cancer patients. On the other side, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and China have over 400-1000 surgeons per 10,000 cancer patients for its citizens.
Similarly, India has a deficient availability of opioids for pain management; population access to opioid daily doses per day is inadequate, i.e. 19 per million population. In contrast, developed countries have high availability, i.e. more than 7,000 daily doses per million population in Germany and 26,000 daily doses per million people in the United Kingdom.
Barriers in addressing the unmet need for palliative care and opioids for cancer treatment is the non-inclusion of palliative care in national health policies and systems and limited training to health professionals. Access to essential medicines have also failed to provide adequate access, which can be monitored.