According to the American Cancer Society as many as 5.5.million women will die from largely preventable cancers each year by 2030.
Every minute, a woman dies of breast cancer. Every two minutes, a woman dies of cervical cancer. Each year 2.7 million women will be diagnosed with cancers of the breast, cervix, endometrium, or ovaries, and more than a million of them will die from these cancers. Most of those women live in developing countries. A woman diagnosed with breast cancer in most high-income countries is very likely to survive. The opposite is true for the hundreds of thousands of women facing the same diagnosis in poor countries. Survival is a fluke of geography.
In the case of cervical cancer, 85% of women diagnosed, and 87% of those who die are from poorer countries. Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable via HPV vaccination for girls and cervical screening, with treatment of pre-cancererous growths. None of this requires an oncologist or high-level cancer centre. These cost-effective interventions can save millions of lives, if made affordable.
There is stark lack of global funding for cancer, in spite of the fact that cancer kills more people, in fact twice as many, than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Breast and cervical cancer alone account for half a million more deaths – mostly of women in the prime of their lives – than the number of women who die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Any time a woman dies in childbirth, it is a tragedy. But equally tragic is a woman who survives her pregnancy, only to succumb to breast cancer when her child is not yet five.
Women who are living with HIV are four to five times more likely to develop cervical cancer. This is why UNAIDS and the WHO recommend combining HIV services with cervical cancer education, screening and treatment, in settings where HIV prevalence is high. The total funding for all non-communicable diseases is a mere fraction of what is required, and each day millions of families face catastrophic expenditures, which come from largely out-of-pocket sources.
A 2015 report from eight ASEAN countries found that one year after a cancer diagnosis, 48% experienced financial catastrophe, 29% of adults had died, and just 23% were alive with no financial catastrophe.