Lung cancer is the deadliest neoplastic disease in Latin America, with high human and economic costs.
It is worrying that the region in general is performing poorly and that no country is making a comprehensive and correct effort.
In the case of Colombia, the areas around this disease were the best tobacco control and data quality, while the worst performers were Access, Early Diagnosis and Prevention that were unrelated to tobacco. Three areas (Treatment, Non-curative Services and Information and support for the cause) received an interim score.
This is the result of the study in 12 countries in the region, conducted by the Intelligence Unit of The Economist (EIU), and sponsored by Roche.
On the other hand, stigma, one of the reasons why lung cancer gets less effort and attention than other types of cancer, is widespread in Colombia and the region.
A survey conducted in 2014 in the country shows that 75% of the population believe that people with lung cancer are guilty of their illness as a result of smoking, and 70% think that patients receive little sympathy.
Different areas were analyzed: priorities, which need to be addressed more urgently, and the key areas, which are essential for success, although they depend on priority areas.
In Latin America it was deduced that:
Given the high percentage of lung cancer caused by smoking, attempts to reduce smoking are essential for prevention.
Lung cancer is a catastrophic disease, and paying for medical care would be very difficult for most people and their families.
This domain combines an assessment of the probability of cash expenditure for people with limited resources, with an approach to the level of access in rural areas.
As with other types of cancer, there is a inversely proportional relationship between the late diagnosis and the probability of survival in the long term.
Therefore, early diagnosis is essential, and this requires not only equipment but also efforts to improve the speed of diagnosis and reduce stigmatization so that more potential patients decide to seek medical attention.
When prevention fails, effective and multidisciplinary treatment is required.
It is not always possible to assess how much is done in practice, but if there is not even a policy that requires such care from the patient, it is much less likely that it will be provided.
Prevention not related to tobacco
Smoking causes two thirds of lung cancer cases in the countries of the study.
Information and support for the cause
Consciousness, information and support for the cause are key elements for successful cancer control.
General diagnosis of the previous points
To address some of the previous points, it can be said that:
– Apart from the common challenges for the region in the area of access, there are patients in the country who seek refuge in the court to claim coverage for the treatment of lung cancer.
– Consideration should be given to how knowledge about this disease among general practitioners and the efficiency of the health system in general can be improved to promote detection at an earlier stage.
– Colombia has guidelines for the treatment of lung cancer.
Regarding the speed of starting treatment once prescribed, while in the US. the average of patients begins 16 days after the diagnosis, and in Europe it starts at 35 days (approximately) in Colombia on average 48 days. This figure corresponds to the low availability of oncologists and equipment.
– It is necessary to increase the different efforts to tackle non-tobacco risk factors.
– Having pure air and drinking water implies health benefits and quality of life that go far beyond reducing the incidence of lung cancer.