The ACIAPO Foundation of Argentina, together with other patient associations in the region, inquired into the major difficulties encountered by affected people after they receive their diagnoses. The most frequent ones: bureaucracy and exceedingly long waiting times. GLOBALHealthPR Argentina partner Paradigma explains.
Cumbersome formalities, delays in the delivery of medicines and patients’ lack of information are some of the main hindrances to access to cancer treatment in Latin America. The data stem from a survey conducted by the ACIAPO Foundation (Community Foundation for Comprehensive Care of Cancer Patients) of Argentina, jointly with patient associations from five other Latin American countries, for the purpose of assessing the main access problems faced by low-income oncology patients once they are diagnosed. In order to improve the present situation, the entities suggest improving counselling and assistance, educating patients and maintaining oncology drug banks.
The following entities took part in the survey: the ACIAPO Foundation (Argentina); Instituto Oncoguía (Brazil); the CáncerVida Foundation and the New Life Association of Rancagua (Chile); the Simmon Foundation (Colombia); The Mexican Association of the Fight Against Cancer (Mexico) and Esperantra (Peru).
Ignacio Zervino, MB, Institutional Relations Director of the ACIAPO Foundation, explained, “We chose access as the first issue to work on, because the different organizations agreed that this is the most relevant and most critical aspect of the problems faced by cancer patients in Latin America.” Even in countries with broad public health care coverage, access is hindered by issues such as the excessively long distance to the care centre or the lack of the education level necessary to understand how to follow a treatment scheme.
The most frequent problems identified by the survey were: excessive bureaucracy, poor/incorrect information (which leads to the sub-utilization of the available public resources): lack of education (patients who do not have the educational and cognitive tools needed to stand up for their rights and achieve empowerment) and insufficient complaints. The fewer the complaints from patients and family members, the longer the delays or the greater the misunderstandings in the response of the public health system, both as regards the delivery of medicines, the making of appointments, the granting of subsidies to the cost of travel to the treatment centres and other aspects.
“We believe it is essential to work on the education of the patients and on the proactive interaction with the health authorities”, advised Mr. Zervino, who explained that “far from the combative attitude that sometimes characterizes community organizations, we recommend working jointly with officials by proposing courses of action on the basis of our knowledge of reality.” In this regards, “ACIAPO is trying to strengthen the links with health authorities, health care programs and other organisms so as to formulate proposals. We also try to improve the quality of the records, i.e., to systematize the evidence of access problems in order to measure the extent of the difficulties”, he underlined.
What can be done?
There is much that Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can do in order to improve access to cancer treatment. Among the most efficient strategies, we should mention the following:
Why is this important?
The number of cancer patients in the world is bound to increase: while in 2012 the number of new cases diagnosed was 14 million, it is estimated that this figure will increase to 22 million cases per year over the next two decades. But this is not all:
- By 2030, in Latin America and Caribbean, the number of cases diagnosed will have reached 1.7 million per annum will be diagnosed, with a million deaths each year.
- Over 50% of the new cancer cases and almost two thirds of the deaths occur in low- and medium-income countries.
- In 2030, the developing world will bear 70% of the global burden of cancer.
- Each year, 8.2 million people die of cancer all over the world2.
- Between 2.4 and 3.7 million deaths could be avoided through prevention, early detection and treatment1.
Unfortunately, while cancer is a growing problem in countries with all income levels, its consequences are more severe in less favoured areas. The mortality rate for all types of cancer in low-income countries is 74.5%, while in high-income countries the rate is only 46.3%, in other words, mortality is 1.6 times higher3 in low-income countries.
What are some of the barriers to cancer treatment access in your country?
 Knaul FM, Arreola-Ornelas H, Méndez O, et al., 2014. The global economic burden of cancer. Chapter 6.7. In Stewart BW and Wild CP (Eds.). World Cancer Report 2014. UICC. Lyon, France. http://www.iarc.fr/en/publications/books/wcr/index.php
 Economist Intelligence Unit . Breakaway: The Global Burden of Cancer–Challenges and Opportunities. The Economist; 2009.