April 18, 2024

Urgent investment towards cancer care needed in Cameroon, a CHAI-led study shows

A CHAI-led survey evaluating the availability of cancer care services in Cameroon has been published in eCancer. Funded by the UBS Optimus Foundation (UBSOF) and the American Cancer Society (ACS), the survey meticulously assessed barriers to optimal cancer care in the country. It generated data to empower stakeholders, policymakers, and funders to make data-driven decisions on cancer control.

The state of cancer care services in Cameroon

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Cameroon has approximately 19,564 new cancer cases, with 65 percent of related deaths annually. Although the number of cases is consistently rising, the Ministry of Health lacks sufficient data for evidence-based decision-making for effective cancer control.

The survey identified six facilities nationwide offering adult cancer services and reporting 1,636 new cases annually. This is much lower than WHO estimates, indicating an under-detection of cases nationally. While all six sites offered chemotherapy, just one offered radiotherapy services. This echoed the lack of radiotherapy services across the country.

Despite the available chemotherapy services in most hospitals assessed, all the facilities reported near-constant unavailability of chemotherapy medicines. One-third had a complete stock-out at the time of assessment.

Human resource capacity for optimal cancer treatment was found inadequate. In fact, nearly 85 percent of the staff lacked prior training in cancer care.

Cancer treatment imposes a significant financial burden on patients. For instance, a complete course of chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy is estimated at US$2,480. This cost is far out of reach for many Cameroonians. Currently, 43 percent of the population is poor based on various matrix, while 17 percent is vulnerable to poverty.

Significant investments needed for cancer care

The survey’s findings underscore the urgent need for significant investments in cancer care in the country. On a positive note, the study provides reliable data for informed decision-making in Cameroon’s cancer control efforts. The data covers crucial aspects such as case detection, service availability, human resource capacity, and treatment cost. The findings on adult services availability are now available in this article, while the results for pediatric services can now be assessed here.

Since 2019, CHAI and its dedicated partners have been working with the Ministry of Public Health through the National Committee for the Fight Against Cancer (NACFAC) to address these challenges. Learn more here about our ongoing efforts and the progress we’ve made so far.

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