Can you beat cancer? It depends on where you live

With information from one of the most intense cancer research studies ever conducted (surveying 25.7 million people), it’s clear that where you live has something to do with how likely you are to survive cancer. For example, 9 out of 10 kids with lymphblastic leukemia in the U.S. will survive. Compare that to the 16 […]

With information from one of the most intense cancer research studies ever conducted (surveying 25.7 million people), it’s clear that where you live has something to do with how likely you are to survive cancer.

For example, 9 out of 10 kids with lymphblastic leukemia in the U.S. will survive. Compare that to the 16 percent survival rate in Jordan. In countries like Mauritius and Norway, more than 70 percent of cervical cancer patients have a five-year survival rate. In Libya, its less than 40 percent of patients.

This isn’t about how aggressive the cancer is, necessarily, it’s more about how equipped countries are to deal with the circumstances.

The reason that some countries lag behind is not surprising; it’s a matter of how much is invested in cancer care. Dr. Corey Casper, head of global oncology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, met a doctor in Uganda a few years ago who was then seeing 10,000 patients a year “in a facility that had … no roof, inconsistent electricity and no meds.” What’s more, says Casper, he was the only cancer doctor in Uganda and four surrounding countries.

Casper also said that within the 57 tribes in Uganda, some of them don’t even have a word for cancer. As a result, many times, patients who eventually seek care don’t do so until they are in stage 3 or 4.

There is plenty of room to make progress with cancer treatment in these areas, but there must be initiative. That’s why Uganda is opening a $10 million cancer center next month in the capital, Kampala, with help from USAID and the Fred Hutchinson center.

[Photo from flickr user Kenneth Lu]