Treatment of cancer in the country lacks focus, strategy, and plan, which is why patients and their families here suffer an increased financial burden, speakers said at a programme on Monday.
The government should develop strategies to raise public awareness, and integrate early detection and screening of cancer into the national health system.
If diagnosed early, many cancer types such as breast, cervical, colorectal, skin, oral and some childhood cancers are easy to treat and cure.
This means early detection makes treatment affordable with a better outcome but a majority of cancer cases remain undetected here until it is too late, experts said at the event organised jointly by biotech company Roche Bangladesh and Cancer Care and Research Trust, Bangladesh (CCRT,B).
The CCRT,B is working towards making information about cancer available and accessible to the people.
Accurate information and knowledge can empower people to recognise early warning signs and seek professional medical intervention. Healthcare providers also need to understand the value of early detection and encourage it.
An increasing number of cancer patients globally are exerting pressure on health budgets. Besides, nations are losing productivity due to premature deaths and time taken off work.
Patients and their families suffer a double blow - they feel a financial drain for the expensive treatment like surgery and chemotherapy and loss of income.
Investment in cancer prevention, early diagnosis and controlled management is critical to saving lives. It can also save money at the same time.
There is a compelling argument that by investing $11 billion in preventive strategies in low- to middle-income countries, $100 billion can be saved in cancer treatment cost, according to documents provided at the programme at the Centre for Advanced Research of Sciences, Dhaka University.
Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the prime minister, was the chief guest and geneticist Sir Walter Bodmer of Oxford University was present there as the guest of honour.
Sir Bodmer said the development of cancer registries is very important for understanding the scenario in Bangladesh.
There is no such national registry as of now.
Another most important factor that is missing is knowledge about how people are getting cancer and why cancer patients are increasing over the years.
"We have to get there and find out," Gowher said.
Roche Bangladesh is now working in advocating policy on four dimensions – awareness, infrastructure, diagnosis, and funding.
It is trying to find out barriers that keep cancer patients away from receiving accurate and early diagnosis and treatment and to address them.
"A multi-sectoral approach is necessary, in which healthcare providers, researchers, patients, communities and drug companies will engage in reducing the burden of cancer care," said Arif Raihan Maahi, policy and communication accelerator of Roche Bangladesh.