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Make cancer treatment affordable for poor

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06th-Feb-2019       
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Cancer treatment in the country is grappled with high costs of tests, medication and inadequacy of specialists and facilities against the large patients. People get little time to start treatment as cancer can be detected in the final stage. Medical science has achieved some remarkable success, but cancer treatment is still in a mess. In Bangladesh, though the authorities have achieved remarkable success in reducing maternal and infant mortality, the cancer along with some non-communicable diseases still remain epidemic.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer's Report-2018, about 1.08 lakh people die and 1.5 lakh people develop cancer in the country every year. The country has only 200 cancer specialists while treatment facilities are also inadequate. The National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) is the only specialized hospital for cancer treatment in the country. Besides, there are only nine government medical colleges, which have logistics for cancer treatment, outside Dhaka. Although some private hospitals have been offering treatment in recent times through their oncology units, none of them specialize in cancer treatment and also too expensive for patients.
Due to the constraints, many patients are now going abroad for treatment. Around 60-70 per cent of the cancer patients take treatment from India and other countries like Singapore and Thailand.  The cost of treatment in India is almost equal to that of in Bangladesh. Even with the government hospitals providing medicines free of cost to at least 50 per cent of the patients, families of many cancer patients are still unable to bear expenses and stop treatment halfway.
A significant number of Bangladeshi cancer patients who cannot afford to go abroad also cannot get access to the local treatment due to overwhelming cost. Bangladesh government has been planning to set up cancer centres in eight hospitals. But without resolving the basic issues -- such as formulating a population-based cancer register, controlling the cancer treatment cost, producing trained manpower, conducting fundamental research and implementing comprehensive treatment approach -- how far will an infrastructural expansion (like installing eight new cancer centres) benefit the patients remains a question.

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