Bangladesh currently has more than 1.5 million cancer patients
Nargis Begum was waiting for her first radiotherapy at the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH). She has been waiting for two months and a half.
The 39-year-old housemaid told the Dhaka Tribune that she had already had eight sessions of chemotherapy at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital, where she spent about Tk11,000 for each session.
Her husband, a wage labourer, has had to borrow even more money for her 15 radiotherapy sessions — which will cost about Tk10,000 each.
“It has become difficult to continue the treatment. I cannot work like before because of my cancer,” she said.
Nargis said she or her husband could not get bank loans and hence were depending on relatives.
She said it had become difficult for them to manage two meals a day for the family of four. “We are getting by with just one meal a day.”
Doctors have told Nargis that since her cancer has been identified at an early stage, it could be cured.
“What will I do? I don’t know how to continue the treatment,” said Nargis, as it is like a far off dream for her.
According World Health Organization (WHO), there were a little 150,781 new cancer cases in Bangladesh last year. With 12,764 cases, breast cancer accounts for the 8.5% of all cancer patients. It is the highest single cancer category for women accounting for 19% of all women cancer patients.
The report said that there were 83,715 male and 67,066 female cancer patients in 2018 around the country.
Another statistic puts cancer behind 12% of all deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCD).
However, the number of cancer patients are increasing day by day and at present there are over 1.5 million cancer patients in Bangladesh, according to WHO’s updated estimation.
It also says that every year 200,000 people are attacked by cancer and 150,000 people die of the disease.
The country at present has 37 cancer treatment facilities, according to the Cancer Awareness Foundation Bangladesh.
The ruling Awami League in its elections manifesto had pledged to start cancer treatment in every medical college. It also pledged at least one 100-bed self-contained cancer and kidney treatment facility in each divisional city.
NICRH Director Prof Dr Md Mosharraf Hossen told the Dhaka Tribune that everyday about 1,200 cancer patients come to the cancer hospital for treatment, of which 550 get radiotherapy and 275 chemotherapy.
“I don’t think there is any other hospital in the world that provides service to so many cancer patients,” he said.
He said that one patient has to wait six weeks for radiotherapy, and added: “There are about 1.5 million cancer patients in Bangladesh but the actual number is much higher.”
Pointing to the burden of cancer treatment cost, he said: “Here we are trying to provide free medicine to about 50-60% patients. We deal with a huge number of patients in a 300-bed facility along with only six radiotherapy units.”
Dr Mosharraf emphasised on early detection which increases the chance of cure to 80%. He said he hoped to see a significant change in cancer treatment within three years in line with the prime minister’s pledge.
According to the WHO report, oesophagus cancer – a cancer in the food tract, topped the list followed by cavity lip and oral cavity cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and cervix uteri cancer amongst the most common in Bangladesh.
Female patients mostly suffer from breast cancer followed by cervix uteri, oesophagus, gallbladder and, lip and oral cavity cancer while oesophagus tops the list of cancers for males in Bangladesh followed by lung, lip and oral cavity cancers.
World Cancer Day 2019
A three-year long campaign launches on Monday, February 4, the World Cancer Day 2019.
The theme, “I Am and I Will,” is a call to action for individuals and governments to make progress in the fight against cancer by promoting research, increasing healthcare access, improving patient services and raising global awareness by the Union for International Cancer Control.