Cancer a daunting challenge for poor countries

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More than half of new cancer cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, as do nearly two-thirds of cancer deaths. Experts at a global oncology symposium held February 8, 2014 at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discussed the substantial barriers to care faced by cancer patients in developing countries, such as the cost of care, limited access to treatment facilities, and social stigma.

But there is cause for hope, according to speakers like Felicia Marie Knaul, director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, a research program studying equitable development. New cases can be prevented by reducing smoking and increasing use of vaccines to prevent the viral infections that cause liver and cervical cancer. And the trend toward universal health coverage in developing countries will put treatment in reach for more people.

“There’s lots of room for what we can do before we reach what we can’t,” Knaul said.