Over the past decade, our knowledge of the genetic aspects of cancer has dramatically grown. There are now new forms of targeted remedies that are leading to clinical progress for thousands of patients with cancer.
Additionally, our knowledge of complexities of cancer treatment has dramatically increased, and new immunological therapies for cancer are generating surprisingly strong results. My special thanks to our dear government for this initiative.
However, on the other side of the coin, the rising healthcare costs leave a growing number of cancer patients - both uninsured or with insurance without the financial coverage they need.
Thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer each year in Tanzania and it’s one of the five most costly medical conditions. This forces many patients to make decisions about their healthcare and cancer treatment based on the finances and not on what is the best for their health.
Once diagnosed with cancer, whether insured or not, people face significant and sometimes devastating hurdles to receive timely, affordable treatment in our health care system.
Cancer patients require a lot of services: infusion therapy, medication, surgery and ongoing care from doctors.
I spend a lot of time with my patients talking about options on what they can and can’t afford. As doctors, we are constantly juggling for what is best for patients, versus what they can afford. Whether or not, healthcare reform will help fix this problem remain to be seen.
The cost keeps rising
I therefore argue the government to rationalise the cost of cancer treatment. One of the biggest challenges in clinical cancer care, especially in Tanzania, is the cost of new drugs. Over the past ten years, the cost of cancer therapy has dramatically risen.
Dr Syriacus Buguzi in his article ‘Cancer patients dig deeper to pay for treatment at ORCI’, published in The Citizen, shows vividly how the cost of cancer treatment is a burden to low income earners.
Dr Buguzi points out in his article that 75 per cent of cancer patients at the ORCI (Ocean Road Cancer Institute) reported in the advanced stages of their disease condition, and more are frustrated by high cost of cancer treatment.
Many of the medical advances that allow cancer patients to live longer come at higher cost. Some of the newer drugs cost upwards of millions of money for a single cycle of chemotherapy, prices most uninsured people can’t afford.
Even patients who do have insurance often have to pay more than 50 per cent of the recommended cancer treatment.