According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death globally in 2020, accounting for roughly 10 million deaths or nearly one in 6 deaths. In developing nations, its residents may have difficulty acquiring quality healthcare. For example, in Mexico, it is the third leading cause of death which can be considered alarming. There may be a cancer clinic in Mexico. However, many people are still diagnosed late because of socio-cultural factors, which may be a factor for the high mortality rate.
We aim to inform you about the fundamentals of cancer and cancer treatment in developing countries. We believe that having this knowledge will help you better understand cancer, how it develops, and how to choose cancer treatment alternatives.
- What is Cancer
Cancer is a term that encompasses a broad range of illnesses that can affect any region of the body. More than 100 different cancers exist. Other terms that are related to cancer are malignant tumors and neoplasm. One distinguishing characteristic of cancer is the rapid and uncontrolled development of abnormal cells that quickly outgrow their normal bounds and can infiltrate other body parts before metastasizing or spreading to other organs. These excess cells could aggregate into a tissue mass known as a tumor.
There is no known specific cause for cancer. However, certain risk factors increase the possibility of getting cancer. These controllable factors include exposure to lethal chemicals, viral infections, and living an unhealthy lifestyle through smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity. There are also uncontrollable risk factors, such as the family’s medical history of cancer inherited from gene mutations.
- Socio-Cultural Context
Nations are classified as developed or developing based on their economy and population income. In developing countries, their residents have less access to basic human needs and healthcare compared to developed countries.
When we ponder cancer as a topic, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is congruent to a death sentence. This alone is a manifestation of misinformation that prevents cancer patients from receiving proper treatment. Those most vulnerable to cancer misinformation typically have fewer levels of education, lesser health literacy, lower trust in healthcare, and more favorable views of alternative treatment.
According to World Health Organization (2022), the availability of treatment varies significantly among nations with different income levels; comprehensive treatment is accessible in more than 90% of high-income nations but less than 15% in low-income nations.
- Treatment Alternatives
The best chance for a successful way to treat cancer is early detection or diagnosis for patients that show visible symptoms. However, it’s still best to have regular medical check-ups even though there are no visible symptoms, which is called screening.
Suppose the doctor has already diagnosed a person that has cancer. In that case, there are three available treatments that a patient may undergo:
- Primary treatment – This refers to removing the cancer cells in the patient’s body, and one common way is through surgery.
- Adjuvant treatment – This treatment aims to remove the remaining cancer cells from the primary treatment. This may encompass chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Palliative treatment – If the cancer is in the severe stages, patients can opt for palliative care that helps patients and their families live better lives by only relieving their symptoms rather than curing them. People with little possibility of a cure can live more comfortably with the aid of palliative care.
Cancer is a serious health issue that doesn’t discriminate, meaning anyone can have this disease regardless of age, religion, or race. Even though it has no specific cause, it may be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. In developing countries with limited healthcare access, correct cancer information must be disseminated to minimize the mortality rate. Cancer awareness is the key to early detection and removing the fear and stigma that is wrongfully attached to the disease.
World Health Organization. (2022, February 3). Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer