Lung cancer cases are on the rise in Bangladesh, with the rise in the number of smokers and air pollution levels. This inference can be drawn from the latest Hospital Cancer Registry Report that has recorded nearly a 200% rise in the country's lung cancer burden in just three years.
According to the report, unveiled earlier this month, "From January 2015 to December 2017, a total of 76,543 new patients attended the outpatient department of the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH). Of them, some 35,369 had confirmed or provisional diagnosis of cancer and they were included in the final analysis."
A total of 5,887 people with lung cancer were admitted to the hospital in these three years. The figure was 1983 in 2014, as per the report, indicating a nearly 200% rise in cases in just three years. "Lung was the leading site of cancers in men followed by breast cancer in women -- 24.7% men were admitted with lung cancer and 5.2% women."
"Besides, 4,998 breast, 2,719 cervix, 1,582 oesophagus, 1,366 stomach, 1,224 liver, 1,177 lymphoma, 1,054 rectum, 884 cheek /oral mucosa and 485 gall bladder cancer patients received treatment from 2015 to 2017 at NICRH," the report stated, adding that 77.2% patients did not receive any kind of cancer treatment before attending NICRH.
On the other hand, the data of the 2014 cancer registry report showed that lung was the main site of cancers in both sexes. In 2014, the report claimed, some 27.4% women died from breast cancer in Bangladesh, while 17.9% from uterus cancer.
Experts attribute the rising cancer cases to an increase in the number of smokers and air pollution levels in Bangladesh. "Smoke from factories and exhaust from vehicles are the two leading causes of cancer in Bangladesh. Immediate steps are needed to reduce pollution," Dr Md Habibullah Talukder, head of NICRH Cancer Epidemiology Department, told UNB.
"One-third of cancer patients in Bangladesh are admitted to hospital. We don't know about the rest of the patients. The government must take initiatives to protect people from the disease and improve treatment facilities. If a cancer is identified at the first stage, then patients will recover fast. So, awareness among people is also needed," he added.
According to Dr Habibullah, around 156,000 patients die from cancer in Bangladesh every year. "Every country should have a national cancer control strategy and plan of action to reduce mortality and morbidity from cancer effectively. We are still lacking these essential strategies," he said, urging the government to allocate a proper budget for the same.
Another cancer specialist at the hospital, Dr Muhammad Rafiqul Islam blamed food adulteration, environmental pollution and genetic condition too for the rise in cancer cases. "There are nearly 15 to 20 lakh cancer patients in Bangladesh, and 2 lakh cases are added to the tally every year. Around 50% of cancer patients go abroad for treatment for lack of healthcare here," he said.
Prof Dr Sabera Khatun, former chair of Gynae-Oncology department of BSMMU, also voiced concern over the increase in the number of cancer patients in Bangladesh. "The government should create a proper database of cancer patients immediately."
The Chairman of Community Oncology Center Trust said that 99% uterus cancer patients can be cured through administration of vaccines in their teenage years. "But it is not done in Bangladesh. Women should also be made aware of uterus and breast cancers," she said.
"Some 5,69,847 women are diagnosed with uterus cancer every year worldwide and over 3 lakh succumb to the disease. In Bangladesh, some 8,068 women are diagnosed with this disease while 5,214 die from it every year, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer," Prof Dr Sabera said.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque recently said that the government planned to build a 15-storey cancer hospital in each of the eight divisions by 2022. "Adequate facilities for the treatment of cancer, kidney and heart diseases will be provided in these hospitals. At least 300 beds will be in each department. Bangladeshis won't need to go abroad for treatment," he had said.