Plenary: Cancer and other chronic diseases

By: Lauren Beaudry, Duke Global Health Institute

Eighty-eight percent of the women who die from cervical cancer and sixty-three percent of the women who die from breast cancer live in low or middle-income countries. These are the staggering statistics presented today by Dr. Felicia Knaul, associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Knaul, a breast cancer survivor herself, is working to bridge the divide in cancer care between developed and developing nations. While cancer knows no economic boundary, people living in poor areas are disproportionately suffering from treatable and preventable cancers. 

In addition to disparities in treatment and prevention, Dr. Knaul also addressed the fact that pain control or palliative care is almost nonexistence in many LMICs. In her work to expand access to cancer care in developing countries, Dr. Knaul proposes a “Diagonal” approach to setting priorities and addressing gaps in the health system. 

Dr. Knaul also states that not only is expanding cancer care in developing countries necessary and appropriate, it is also predicted to be cost-effective. Broad estimates suggest that increases in cancer care could lead to 130-850 billion dollars worldwide. At the end of her engaging and thought provoking presentation, Dr.

Knaul reminded us all that cancer care is not about the disease, but it is about people and that this is what we need to remember when moving forward with global cancer care and research.

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