Joint effort needed for cancer treatment: Experts

Speakers at a roundtable on Tuesday called upon the non-government organisation, pharmaceutical companies and civil society alongside the government to come forward for the treatment of cancer patients.

They pointed out that the cost of cancer treatment is very high and the treatment of this disease leads many families to economic disaster.

The discussants made this remark at the roundtable titled 'Cancer and Rare Disease Treatment Costs: Role of Private Sector' organised at the Prothom Alo office in Karwan Bazar of the capital.

Multinational pharmaceutical company Roche Bangladesh and Prothom Alo jointly organised it.

Enamul Haque, director general of the health economics unit of health ministry, citing a research of Dhaka University, said the cost of cervical cancer treatment is more than TK 600,000, and that of colon cancer is over TK 800,000. Lion share of the cost goes to medicine.

He said there is a directive to produce medicine of cancer at the proposed Manikganj plant of government organisation Essential Drugs Company.  If medicine is produced by the government organisation, the burden of expenditure for patients will be reduced.

Robed Amin, line director of the non-communicable disease control programme of the Directorate General of Health Services, said the country has strategies and action plans over cancer.

According to these documents, a council, a task force of cancer and cancer committees at various levels have to be formed. But this has not happened yet. New strategies are being developed.

He said a hospital-based cancer registration has been undertaken in three institutions to understand the situation in the country.

Director of National Cancer Research Institute and Hospital, Swapan Kumar emphasising on awareness said, the situation cannot be improved by comparing other country with Bangladesh, with the private hospitals of other countries with that of Bangladesh.

He said the burden of cancer may be reduced by a large margin by adding cervical vaccination to extended vaccination programme, prohibiting smoking completely.

Medical services directorate general consultant physician general Azizul Islam emphasised on building integrated cancer service centre.

He said, integrated cancer treatment can be delivered if cancer detection technology, trained manpower, instrument of therapy and modern lab of testing cancer are available at the same centre.

He said, currently only Combined Military Hospital and private Evercare Hospital transplant the bone marrow (BMT).

During the discussion, country manager of Rosh Bangladesh Mohammad Afroz Jalil said, the outbreak of non-infectious disease like cancer is increasing with the increase of old age people of the country.

Cancer situation can be managed by the partnership of government and non-government organisation. If any uniform initiative is taken in cancer treatment, Roche Bangladesh will be with it.

During the keynote presentation, Rosh Bangladesh’s analyst of healthcare system MD Arif Raihan said everyone should have equal opportunity for cancer treatment. Awareness, detection of disease, skill and financing- these four things must get priority. There are opportunities for private organisations to work with government organisations in all four areas.

Tahmina Gaffer was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. Now she is the president of Aparajita Society against Cancer, an organisation for fighting cancer.

Describing her life's struggle, Tahmina said, women make delay in visiting the physician due to various reasons. When there is a cancer patient, the family has to undergo many traumatic experiences.

By commenting that the cancer treatment cost will increase in future, Ahasania Mission Cancer General Hospital managing director Kamruzzaman Chowdhury said many patients come for treatment after reaching the advanced stage of cancer. Many during the treatment process say they are not able to spend money any more.

He said the government may supply expensive medicines at a subsidised price. The government may undertake a project in this regard.

Project director of A2i project Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir said, the country has the tradition of free treatment. The cancer treatment should follow the same path. He said, many healthcare organisations have various data. A2i has taken an initiative to share these data.

The bone marrow transplant in the country started at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Now it is temporarily closed.  Tasnim Ara, professor of Hematology and BMT department of Dhaka Medical College said it will reopen soon.

She said the facility of cancer test is very weak in the country. As it is not possible to keep faith on the result of tests many send samples to neighbouring country.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) analyst Nabila Purna said there are basic questions--the cancer patients who come to the hospital, the stage of their cancer and which kind of cancer more prevalent in the country.

To find the answers of these questions, there must be a process of registration based on population. Bangladesh does not have that type of process. Progress cannot be made in fighting in a planned way due to lack of leadership.

Albab-ur-Rahman, coordinator of Brac’s health, nutrition and population programme said, cancer test programme should be extended to the rural level. He said, the matter of patient’s satisfaction should also be included in the discussion of treatment cost.

Prothom Alo associate editor Abul Quayum gave the welcome speech during the roundtable meeting. Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Chowdhury moderated it.