Every 60 minutes, 15 people are diagnosed with cancer in Argentina, and there are 129,000 new cases each year in the country, a recent report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has revealed.
Close to 68,000 deaths are caused by cancer in Argentina each year, which is the thirdhighest cancer mortality rate in Latin America. Breast cancer is the most frequent form of the disease, with 73 cases per 100,000 women each year.
The IARC’s Global Cancer Observatory paints an alarming portrait of Argentina’s endemic cancer rates in its new 2018 report. By 2040, the organisation said, worldwide cancer rates will grow by 63 percent, and the number of deaths will rise 71.5 percent globally. Nearly 50 percent more people in Argentina will have cancer by 2040, the group forecasted in September.
Fragmentation in the nation’s healthcare system affects people’s access to medical attention, and disproportionately affects disadvantaged people, according to IARC. These pitfalls make it hard for women to get a mammogram screening for early-stage breast cancer tumours. While the World Health Organisation (WHO) says 70 percent of women should receive mammograms, only 46 percent of Argentine women do, the Economist Intelligence Unit reported.
Immediate intervention is needed to prevent further growth in cancer rates, the IRAC said. And in a bid to improve both early detection of the disease and access to treatment, Argentina’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) will soon launch the “National Cancer Control Plan,” a set of strategies centred around WHO guidelines to help people prevent and cope with the disease.
“The purpose of the plan is to make cancer a key item on the public health agenda,” Julia Ismael, the NCI’s director, explained to Perfil.
“This five-year plan is focused on equity and universal accessibility, emphasises healthy lifestyles, encourages prevention and early detection measures, and promotes lines of continued care for cancer patients,” he added.
The specific objectives of the Plan are: to reduce the prevalence of controllable factors of cancer risk; improve early detection, quality of care and quality of life for patients; seek the advancement of national screening programmes for both colon cancer and cervical cancer; to improve equipment for breast cancer screenings in Argentina, where 70 percent of mammograms are done with outdated anagram machines.
“Our country has many resources to develop programmes that control cancer rates and increase survival rates. The main challenge is to strategically coordinate the different groups and resources that we have. It’s a priority to unite forces at the INC, national public and private health systems, academic institutions and humanitarian groups,” said oncologist Eduardo Cazap, the founder and first president of the Latin American and Caribbean Society of Medical Oncology in an interview.
As Cazap told Perfil, a national plan for cancer control requires deadlines, evaluation of results and, most importantly, funds.
“At the moment the national cancer plan in Argentina does not have its own funds and that is a limitation. The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) depends on the government for its budget, and has a director that’s appointed by the President. In Peru, funds come from a percentage of the tobacco tax,” he explained.
Cazap helps run “Dialogues, Deliberations and Debates,” a multisectoral initiative working to improve Argentina’s cancer problem run through the Institute of Epidemiological Research at the National Academy of Medicine. “For cancer to be a priority in our country, it is necessary that there be a specific budget line to improve its management. As a society, we need cancer to be at the center of the decision-makers’ agenda,” programme coordinator Dr. Zulma Ortiz said.
Under the framework of World Cancer Day, which was celebrated earlier this month on February 4, 12 community organisations relaunched a campaign: “Cancer: Let’s speak positively.” Advocacy groups are fighting against the taboos and euphemisms attached to cancer, discouraging warlike stereotypes like “battle,” “weapon” or “therapeutic arsenal.”
“We have to encourage ourselves to talk about cancer with the right words, without taboos, without prejudice, without stereotypes. By putting the subject on the table we can surely contribute to improving prevention and early detection, two indispensable aspects to improve survival before cancer,” remarked Dr. Matías Chacón, the president of the Argentine Association of Clinical Oncology (AAOC).
“The words we use can scare people or help people in the process of early diagnosis,” explained Analía Montórfano, general assistant of the Tiempo de Vivir Foundation.