Updated 14 August 2014

Access to cancer care: what do we need to do?

Cancer leaders have called for immediate fixes for a broken system that is not working for cancer patients – those who face the fire daily.

When the Union of International Cancer Control gathered in Cape Town this November, most of the time was dedicated to high-level policy discussions between world cancer leaders.

The first meeting served as a voice for cancer patients, opening conversations around access to cancer treatment. And that voice urgently called for immediate fixes for a broken system that is not working for cancer patients – those who face the fire daily.

“We need governments, leaders, the policy makers, regulators, industry, healthcare practitioners and community health workers to work with us, to fight for every inch,” said Campaigning for Cancer chairperson Neil Kirby, calling for greater resources to be devoted to the battle against cancer.

“In the past, there has been apathy, inflexibility, mutual suspicion, politicking and egos at play - but this needs to end, because each one of these represents an inch lost and with it the life of a family member, a friend, a loved one or child... our future.”

'This is not rocket science'

This is the culmination of a campaign run over the past month by Campaigning for Cancer which seeks solutions to address a disease tsunami that is causing deaths – unnecessary deaths – every day. Simply because it is not being adequately addressed. Just because existing solutions are not being considered or applied.

“An open mind to innovative solutions is not rocket science,” said Kirby. “We know what to do. We just need the will to do this.”

At the Voice of Cancer Forum Access to Cancer Treatment in Low and Middle Income Countries – a regional perspective held on 18 November at the Mount Nelson Hotel:

•    Dr Gilberto Lopes of Brazil called for a global mechanism by which countries could co-ordinate procurement of affordable, quality drugs and technology.

•    Pat Garcia-Gonzales of the Max Foundation presented techniques to use access programmes to train primary health care workers and provide innovative cancer therapies to patients worldwide who could not ordinarily afford them.

•    Campaigning for Cancer chairman Neil Kirby presented a proposed legislative amendment to the National Health Act that would allow for all South Africans to have equal access to a patient access programme that would not impact on current SEP (single exit pricing) and perverse incentive legislation.

Access to oncology treatment and care that is affordable is key. Campaigning for Cancer has asked South Africans to come up with constructive, innovative and practical solutions to ensure that fewer cancer patients die unnecessary and painful deaths in future.

Join the conversation on Twitter: follow @campaign4cancer or use the hashtag: #cancer_journey

You can also join the Campaigning for Cancer Facebook page.

Denied cancer treatment? Phone the Ask Now Call Centre on 0861 275 669 (0861 ASK NOW) for help.


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