NEW guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the procurement of radiotherapy equipment aims improve access to this life-saving cancer treatment option worldwide.
In many parts of the world, people still do not have access to this game-changing equipment which could save many lives if used following the new technical guidance.
The publication aims to ensure that equipment is appropriate to each country and to the health facility contexts, as well as making sure that treatment is delivered safely, that the quality of the treatment is maintained, and that services are sustainable.
More than 50 per cent of patients with cancer require radiotherapy and it is frequently used to treat breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer amongst others.
However, one-third of countries still do not have radiotherapy available, out of which 28 are in Africa, said May Abdel-Wahab, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Human Health.
It will be important to select radiotherapy systems which are appropriate for their settings and matched to the existing workforce to help ensure the delivery of safe radiotherapy. In simple words, this means that it is no good having state-of-the-art equipment if the facilities are inadequate to make it function correctly. Therefore, it is most important to build a solid foundation of healthcare services which allow for better radiotherapy equipment.
Radiotherapy is just one of many elements in the management of cancer, others which need to be put in place in many countries are for early detection, diagnostic imaging, laboratory testing, pathology, surgery, systemic treatment and palliative care.
One area where radiotherapy plays an important role is in curing cervical cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among women, and for which WHO launched a global elimination strategy last year.
Radiotherapy is also an integral part of treating breast and childhood cancer control, two other major WHO global cancer initiatives. The new guidance will benefit millions of cancer patients globally, including women seeking treatment for breast cancer, now the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer globally in the world.