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UN seeks better detection of cancer

Posted on Feb 05, 11:44AM | IBNS

New York, Feb 5 : Early detection and modern treatment methods are crucial in reducing the millions of annual global deaths caused by cancer, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced Monday, underscoring its ramped-up efforts in providing the developing world with vital screening and therapy programmes.

At an event held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna to mark the annual World Cancer Day, the UN nuclear watchdog's Director-General, Yukiya Amano, cautioned that despite progress made in fighting the disease, much remained to be done, particularly in low- to middle-income countries where the majority of cancer-related deaths occur.

"Many cancers respond well to treatment and can even be cured," stated Amano, who acknowledged that "millions of men and women now live normal lives for many decades after diagnosis" when they have access to the necessary medical facilities.

"Often, they die in old age of something other than cancer," he added.

However, out of the 10 million lives taken by cancer each year around the world, he noted that a disproportionate amount of these deaths - almost 70 percent - occurred in the developing world, where the lack of tools for diagnosis and treatment were contributing to "an immense human tragedy."

"It is estimated that there is a shortage of around 5,000 radiotherapy machines in developing countries," he continued. "That means that millions of people, in Africa and elsewhere, have no access to diagnostic services or treatment."

Spotlighting his agency's efforts in bridging the diagnosis and treatment gap between the developed and developing world, Amano lamented that in developing countries "too many die of conditions that are actually treatable."

He noted that the IAEA's Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) has already been working to render radiotherapy services available in all countries and is currently supporting over 130 projects in cancer diagnosis, management and treatment.

In addition, the UN agency has already delivered over USD 260 million in cancer-related assistance to developing countries in the past 30 years.

Amano also cited plans to establish a Cancer Training Centre at the IAEA's laboratory complex situated in Seibersdorf, located some 40 kilometers outside of Vienna, within the next few years as a place where health professionals from Member States would have access to specialist training and advanced technologies.

World Cancer Day, which is observed on Feb 4 every year, was initiated in 2005 by the Union for International Cancer Control.

This year, the Day is being marked as the world prepares for the UN General Assembly's High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, which includes cancer as well as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, in September.

The four ailments cause more than 60 percent of all global deaths, or more than 35 million fatalities annually.