Most recent global data indicate that the number of cases and deaths caused by the disease will rise in the region in a faster pace than the average

Different sectors alert point to the need of action in order to increase access to cancer treatment. Better infrastructure, more financing, human resources and availability of treatment are the most mentioned solutions.

Every two minutes, five persons are diagnosed with cancer in Latin America. The region has 1,4 million new cases per year and the disease continues to increase. In September 2018, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), linked to the World Health Organization (WHO), updated the Global Cancer Observatory and the picture for the future is alarming: the incidence of the disease is bound to grow 63% in the world until 2040, and the number of deaths should increase 71,5%.

In developing areas, like Latin America, where early diagnostic and the access to treatment are more difficult, the outlook is even worse: the number of cases must leap 73% in the next 21 years, getting close to 2,5 millions a year, and the deaths will virtually double, achieving the mark of 1,3 deaths a year.

At the same time, the access to health care in the region faces serious problems: according to a study published in The Lancet, more than 156 million people die every year due to the lack of access to health services. The growing need of attention faces fragmented health systems, lacking infrastructure, human resources, diagnostic, treatment and financing.

Uruguay, in many aspects, is the best example of the region when it comes to prevention and treatment. However, the incidence rate of the disease per 100 thousand inhabitants of the country is among the highest of the region, with 251 cases for each group of 100 thousand people, while in Mexico it is of only 132. These numbers reveal the need to act even more incisively to increase the access to the treatment to cancer.

“Speak about cancer should be a public health policy. This is the great challenge”, says the director of the National Institute of Cancer in Uruguay, Álvaro Luongo. According to the IARC, the number of cases in the country is bound to grow 30% until 2040, passing from 15.101 per year to 19,563, and the deaths are expected to increase 34% from 8,589 a year to 11,511 en 2040.

Uruguay has a similar epidemiologic profile to the developed countries, with a bigger prevalence of the risk of some kinds of cancer related to the economic growth and to urbanization, such as breast tumour, prostate and lung, and the fall of others, like cancers of liver and stomach.

The priority of investments should be made in prevention, highlights Álvaro Luongo. “Making campaigns and informing the population is much cheaper than treating a patient. In the treatment in advanced stages, we use drugs and technology of high cost that, many times, are palliative and not healing”, he asserts. He continues to explain that “countries that do not have money to spend in prevention are going to have to spend three or four times as much in treatment”.

A well succeeded initiative when it comes to prevention is in the access to the mammogram, main form to diagnose breasts cancer in its first stages. Since 2005, around 85% of the women of the country had mammograms and from 2006 the test became compulsory by the force of law to those who want to work. The result was that 40% of the diagnostics of breast cancer in the country are given in the first stage, when the cure chances are of 90%.