6 Aug 2019

Call for action over needless Pacific cancer deaths

2:13 pm on 6 August 2019

Thousands of Pacific people are dying from a lack of cancer treatment, New Zealand medical researchers say.

Preparation for radiotherapy

Preparation for radiotherapy Photo: National Cancer Institute

They say there is little or no treatment available in many Pacific countries for what are easily treatable cancers.

The problems are apparent right across the Pacific, from Papua New Guinea to Tokelau, said one of the co-authors of the research, Otago University Medical School in Wellington, Aiono professor Alec Ekeroma.

It is not just a lack of treatment facilities, Professor Ekeroma said, but also a lack of diagnoses.

Professor Alec Ekeroma

Professor Alec Ekeroma Photo: Otago University Wellington

"There is a lack of capability in terms of investigations and treatment," he said.

"So investigations in terms of CT Scans for example is something very basic in imaging of cancers now, whereas most Pacific countries do not have access to CT Scans, catscans."

It's hoped Pacific nations and their development partners will address the issue, Aiono Alec Ekeroma said.

Pacific Health Ministers are meeting in Tahiti this week and Dr Ekeroma said they want the ministers to recognise the problem and act on it.

He said the first thing that needs to be done is to find exact numbers of cancer patients in the Pacific by each country completing cancer registries, "because counting of course would be able to provide funders the evidence that there is a huge problem in the Pacific and then would actually need to develop censuses of treatment in the Pacific. That is in surgery, radiotherapy and also chemotherapy, with of course development partners and countries like Australia and New Zealand."

The report is also appearing in The Lancet Oncology today.

It is available here.