Countries like Myanmar have been actively working to curb cancer, but timely detection and early diagnosis continue to be a challenge. The Asia Regional Director for City Cancer Challenge Foundation (C/Can) in Myanmar, Dr Aung Naing Soe, tells Diagram magazine how this unique initiative is increasing access to sustainable cancer care and treatment.
In Myanmar, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 68% of all deaths, with cancer being the third major cause for mortality. Appropriate diagnostic solutions and quality treatment are paramount to curb deaths and increase survival rates. In a bid to support resource-limited countries and speed up equitable access to quality cancer care, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) established a global initiative. Today, the City Cancer Challenge operates as an independent foundation to deliver cancer care solutions through city level collaborations. Myanmar’s Yangon city was selected as one of the five ‘key learning cities’ for C/Can. Yangon is Myanmar’s main commercial hub. It faces significant challenges in its healthcare system. Public hospitals are overwhelmed with the number of cases and there aren’t enough qualified health professionals.
Our aim is for every person who needs diagnostics and medicines to be able to access and benefit from them. In 2018, Roche launched an integrated global access department. Since then we have partnered with UICC and C/Can to increase access to sustainable cancer care to develop a model that targets cities with a strong need and readiness for improved cancer care that can be scaled up globally.
“Defeating cancer requires global collaboration. As the world leader in oncology we are proud to join forces with the UICC, C/Can and other key partners to tackle this challenge and ensure access to our innovative medicines and diagnostics,” says Severin Schwan, CEO of Roche
Though Myanmar is slowly gaining macroeconomic stability, affordable healthcare continues to be a challenge. C/Can’s Asia Regional Director in Myanmar, Dr Aung Naing Soe, says “C/Can is a first-of-its-kind multi-sectoral initiative as it recognises that addressing NCDs, particularly cancer, requires coordinated energies to work together. C/Can incorporates public, private and civil societies who work hand in hand and share technical expertise.”
By identifying gaps and priorities the executive committee have reported four principal areas for improvement – lack of basic cancer care and management services apart from quality diagnostic solutions and treatment.
Dr Soe emphasises that C/Can is now implementing its priority objectives by “drawing protocols to generate standardised procedures for cancer treatment and care.”
Four types of cancer have been prioritised – breast, cervical, colorectal and lymphoma. Cancer knowledge and health literacy in Yangon is poor and recognising this need, C/ Can has proposed workshops in Yangon, to educate healthcare professionals and the general population regarding early signs of the disease. By initiating such workshops at a local level, Dr Soe says early detection through regular screening is possible and can lead to better cancer treatment solutions. The committee’s findings in the first phase showed Myanmar extensively lagging behind in expert pathologists. Forming the basis of any cancer diagnosis, experienced and trained pathologists are incremental. Therefore, the American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP), an international partner in the C/ Can initiative is delivering technical assistance for more than 60 senior pathologists.
C/Can is championing new ways to minimise and tackle NCDs like cancer.
By opening up health networks and sharing knowledge expertise, innovative solutions are mobilising countries like Myanmar to build a more sustainable healthcare ecosystem.