By Richard Hausmann
Today is World Cancer Day but cancer is a global epidemic that warrants attention and action every day of the year. It is a disease that strikes everywhere regardless of age, gender or socio-economic status. At Elekta, we work to bring effective and cost-effective solutions to the challenges that cancer poses to patients, physicians, societies and economies. Despite the broad view of cancer that informs everything we do at Elekta, today, on World Cancer Day, I want to focus on the ongoing unmet needs – and some innovative solutions – in women’s cancers.
Women’s cancers, including breast and cervical cancer, are treatable and often cured with modern oncology approaches. However, many developing countries lack the equipment and professional expertise to deliver effective treatment for these cancers, resulting in unnecessary deaths. Fortunately, government entities, non-governmental organizations, and healthcare industry leaders are working collaboratively to provide innovative solutions that improve outcomes in women’s cancers and have the potential to reduce the unnecessary and tragic loss of lives. I am proud of the role that Elekta is playing in such collaborative efforts.
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As a leader in radiation therapy, Elekta has an important role to play in advancing the treatment of cancer. We have had a longstanding relationship with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organization that works with member states and multiple partners to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. Elekta has provided both educational services and equipment to a variety of cancer-related projects that the IAEA has initiated.
In 2019, the Partnership Initiative to Increase Access to Diagnostics and Treatment of Women’s Cancers in Low- and Middle-Income Countries was launched to raise $10 million for projects designed to tackle women’s cancers in 17 countries. These projects are designed to expand cancer programs for breast and cervical cancer in over 40 facilities throughout the target countries through the procurement of relevant equipment, training and educating cancer care professionals and enhancing quality assurance in the use of radiation medicine.
Radiation therapy plays a foundational role in treating breast and cervical cancers, yet in many of the 17 countries supported by this initiative, less than 25% of cancer patients have access to such treatment.
While all cancers can be difficult for the patients living with them, and for these patients’ families and loved ones, cervical cancer has additional effects on societies and economies. This is because, unlike other cancers that typically appear later in life, cervical cancer is typically diagnosed in the prime years of women’s families and work lives. Women who die due to cervical cancer often leave young children without a mother and wage-earner, and economies are negatively affected because women are increasingly entrepreneurial and play a key role in stabilizing and building their local economies. Women may also have a reduced ability to engage in daily family and work activities while undergoing treatment for cervical cancer.