By Laura Kemp • 04 February 2022 • 11:44
World Cancer Day 2022: Closing the care gap. Image - World Cancer Day website
Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death, and its burden is growing. Last year, the world crossed a sobering new threshold – an estimated 20 million people were diagnosed with cancer, and 10 million died. These numbers will continue to rise in the decades ahead. And yet, many can be prevented or cured.
In healthcare, inequality refers to the uneven distribution of resources. By contrast, inequity means unjust, avoidable differences in care or outcomes.
The World Cancer Day website states: “The difference may seem subtle, but closing the cancer care gap isn’t really about simply providing everyone with equal resources. One size doesn’t fit all, and every challenge demands a different solution. Equity is about giving everyone what they need to bring them up to the same level.”
Women and girls around the world suffer from discrimination because of misogyny, stereotypes and expected gender roles. Some cultures and religions can further limit access to cancer care. Stigma and ostracisation around cervical and breast cancers can make women less likely to seek cancer screening and, in some parts of the world, women may even need approval or permission from the male head of household to visit a doctor.
For men, social norms around masculinity may make them reluctant to discuss health concerns and consider certain life-saving procedures, such as surgery for early-stage prostate cancer, out of concern for the possible side effects, which can include incontinence or impotence.
How old you are shouldn’t decide the quality of cancer care you receive, however, this is the reality for many. Cancer can develop at any age, but the risk of it happening rises hugely with age. Over half of people who have cancer are 65 or older.
Because early cancer symptoms can be mistaken for everyday pain or minor illnesses associated with old age, many cancers in older patients are diagnosed later. This is exacerbated by a lack of programmes and services designed to respond to the needs of older adults.
Where you live can often decide if you live. Those living in rural areas face many obstacles between them and their chances of surviving cancer. A lack of prevention, screening and treatment services can often mean travelling long distances to access the necessary care and resources. The financial burden of this travel, alongside the need to secure childcare and time off work, can be insurmountable.
Living in lower-income countries can also affect the cancer care people receive or can access: “A recent WHO survey found that cancer services are covered by a country’s largest, government health financing scheme in an estimated 37 per cent of low and middle-income countries, compared to at least 78 per cent of high-income countries.”
“This means that a cancer diagnosis has the potential to push families into poverty, particularly in lower-income countries, an effect that has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For these reasons, and more, the theme for this year’s World Cancer Day is “closing the care gap.”
And fortunately, much is being done to bring quality cancer care to countries for which, up until now, it has been out of reach.
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Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features.
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