Cancer Care and NCDs
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) lead to more deaths globally than all other causes combined, with cancer being one of the key killers. Partners In Health rejects the idea that cancer care is too challenging to do in resource-poor settings, proving that high quality caner care can and should be made accessible everywhere.
Dr. Cyprien Shyirambere, oncology program director for Partners In Health in Rwanda, records medical information after seeing patients for follow-up visits at PIH-supported Butaro District Hospital.(Photo by Cecille Joan Avila/PIH)
Global inequities in resources
Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, are on the rise in poor countries. The World Health Organization estimates that each year 41 million people die from NCDs, with 15 million of these people between the ages of 30 and 69 years. They estimate that over 85% of these “premature” deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Although roughly 70 percent of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, they receive only five percent of global cancer resources.
Identifying and treating NCDs requires a dedicated global effort. If nothing changes, it is estimated that by 2025, NCDs will cost poor countries $7 trillion in lost earnings of people who suffer these diseases, keeping millions of people trapped in poverty. Mental health challenges represent another devastating burden, with depression poised to become the leading cause of disability worldwide by 2030.
Partners In Health works to ensure that poor people living with NCDs receive quality health care, working with governments to incorporate NCD programs into their public health systems.
As part of the broader PIH programs to address NCDs, PIH Canada is committed to supporting and advancing cancer care in the countries where we work. By meeting this extraordinary burden with proven methodologies in early detection, prevention, and treatment, we see an entry point for oncology program design that can strengthen entire health systems.
Cancer plagues people in all the countries we work, but we provide the most extensive care in Rwanda and Haiti. In Rwanda, this involves supporting the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence (BCCoE). Built in 2012, the BCCoE is Rwanda’s first facility dedicated to cancer care and now provides high-quality cancer care to 1,500 patients a year and serves as a national cancer referral center as we support the Ministry of Health’s effort to develop cancer centers in other referral hospitals around the country.
The University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, serves as the country’s finest tertiary care facility. The hospital was opened in 2013 and today provides direct and comprehensive cancer care to a catchment area of 1.2 million patients, as well as training and guidance to clinicians across 11 other PIH-supported facilities in the country.
In 2018, Partners In Health supported the care of
Martha Cassemond, 25, near her home in Mirebalais, Haiti. Photo by Cecille Joan Avila / Partners In Health
Martha Cassemond was 12 years old when she visited PIH’s hospital in Cange, Haiti, with a painful, swollen abdomen. Test results from a biopsy revealed she had a rare form of leukemia, the treatment for which was unavailable locally.
Martha remained hospitalized for a year in Cange, where nurses could only offer her ibuprofen to reduce her pain. At that time, her prognosis was grim.
But sometimes, a lot can change in one year. After advocating on her behalf, PIH obtained the medication Martha needed to survive. She began taking her daily pill and, over a short period of time, her pain subsided and her belly returned to its normal size.
Soon thereafter, with tuition and housing covered by PIH, she was able to resume her studies and stay near the hospital in Cange.
Martha regained and has maintained her health over the past 13 years.
Now, 25, she lives with her partner and 2-year-old son and is living proof that cancer can be beaten.
Martha is a resource to her community and a pillar of support for those in need, advising family members to seek medical help if they are concerned about alarming symptoms.
Please help us prove effective cancer care can be delivered anywhere in the world.
Dr. Sheila Davis is the chief executive officer of Partners In Health and has been a nurse for more than 30 years. Here, she reflects on the World Health Organization’s decision to name 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and on how global leaders should take this moment
Dr. Cyprien Shyirambere is the oncology program director for Inshuti Mu Buzima, as Partners In Health is known in Rwanda. He leads the bustling, vital Cancer Center of Excellence at PIH-supported Butaro District Hospital in the country’s mountainous north. Many patients, family members, and caregivers travel to Butaro from across Rwanda or from surrounding countries such as Burundi
There are nearly 1 million new cancer cases and more than 500,000 cancer-related deaths in Africa per year, and these totals are projected to double by 2040. Training the next generation of health leaders to counter this rise is of critical importance. Increasingly, we see a need for cancer education that explores both the prevention measures and social determinants of