World cancer day: what about an developing world perspective?

World Cancer Day came and went and there was scant attention paid to it in this country.  Should we bother ourselves with the plethora of special days?  Are they just a publicity exercise?

CANSA had a slide show addressing some of the commonly held myths about cancer.  The topics tackled were important but they do not address the problems faced by the majority in this country.

Source: Lynette Denny
The commonest cancers in women in Africa are cervical and breast cancer.  Why then, is the question of vaccination against HPV (which will result in a massive decrease in the number of cases of cervical cancer) not at the top of the list?  An excellent article explaining the issues about cervical cancer in the developing world and putting forward possible preventative strategies has been written by Prof Denny.

Not all my colleagues agree with me, however.  Last week, I had a discussion with a surgical colleague about the importance of looking at the problems of inequality of breast cancer care in South Africa.  There are huge disparities between the management offered for those with ample means and those without.  I urged that we should look at finding local answers rather than using first world models to solve developing world issues.  He astounded me by asking if I wanted "Voodoo" solutions.

This graph (source: BBC) shows some of the problems in the developing world.  The majority of the health budget is spent on treatment and care for suffers of infectious diseases.

As health practitioners involved in the management of cancer, we should be lobbying to get more resources.  It is absurd that we should think of local solutions as Voodoo solutions.

World Cancer Day is another opportunity to lobby politicians and their advisors that we have missed.


  1. Thank you for this. You have planted a seed with the question of finding local answers rather than trying to use first world models. The fact that where you are born and how much money you have, determines the kind of care you receive and therefore your prognosis is staggering.

    1. Hi Kate, Many thanks for your thoughts. South Africans are known for the innovations throughout the world. We need to use those skills here and try and improve the lot of women in this country. Jenny