Cancer treatment in the developing world

In the west cancer treatment is usually associated with spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on endless tests and various methods of treatment.

However due to environmental pollution and smoking, cancer rates are growing in the developed world. Especially places like China which I think have seen rates grow 50%+ in the last couple decades.

So what do people in China do if they get cancer? Are there off patent, generic chemotherapy and hormonal therapy drugs they can use? Are other forms of cancer treatment like radiation therapy, immunotherapy or surgery feasible and within their reach?

Basically, what happens to people in the developing world who earn $1000 a year and develop cancer who want to get treatment. What happens to them?

Do they have access to older, off patent medications for chemotherapy? Can they get surgery?

in China, you basically use imported western medicine, and over time p
more is produced in China by either the drug majors or under licence. It’s quite expensive.

My sister in law had her left breast removed, chemo, radiation therapy, and now 15 months later is doing some additional low level chemo. Pretty much what you would get in the west (if you can afford it).

A family friend who is uneducated, unemployable, has little money and is a lifelong smoker. I’m not sure but believe he’s has almost zero health care options. He also could care less and will continue his 3 decade pactice of enjoying his cigs.

basically, ASAIK, if you make $10k a year (or less), you have no practical treatment

moves motorized monocle into place

They die.

This is pretty much accurate.

This is only part of the picture. When people live longer due to less infectious disease, more availability of medical care and better food supplies, they become more prone to developing cancer. If you die from cholera at age 30, you don’t have the opportunity to get cancer.

But generic meds are hitting the market all the time. Aren’t there a variety of generic chemo drugs that went off patent 10 years ago for $20/month these people have access to?

$20 a month is too much for lots of people in the developing world.

Having never been a cancer patient, I am unsure of how it goes, exactly, but I would assume there are associated treatments necessary along with the medication. Finding qualified professionals in a lot of places is not easy.

I actually took a class last year called Public Health in Developing Countries and I don’t think we talked about cancer treatment even once, probably because it’s such high-hanging fruit in most places. Things like getting clean water and figuring out how to stop the spread of HIV are much more pressing, giving the limited resources we’re dealing with.

Tell you what, the professor who taught that course, who’s a Harvard-trained health economist specializing in developing countries, is teaching the econ course I’m taking this semester. I’ll ask her what she thinks when I see her on Tuesday.

It seems fairly obvious that people don’t ‘catch’ or ‘get’ cancer, so isn’t it far more likely to be the case that we ALL have “cancer” and it is just waiting to ‘kick in’, for whatever reason?

Probably not, although there has recently been some speculation along those lines.

But the general thinking is that you “get” cancer when a bunch of mutations occur in succession and allow cells to grow out of control. In a sense, you may “catch” cancer when you are infected with a virus which can lead to cancer, such as HPV. Tasmanian devils actually catch cancer from each other; they suffer from facial tumors which are transmitted between the animals.

not sure if this is true. And even if it were true, then these drugs are probably not very effective or they would be used extensively in the first world.

My brother was a missionary, back in the late 70s, though he was a teacher, he often dealt in areas where the only medical people for 100 mile radius were nurses.

He told me in Africa that the people will always go to the “medicine man” first. They get herbs and grasses and then spells. If this doesn’t work then they go to the white man clinic. Then the nurses do what they can and usually they can get a doctor to fly in.

The doctor can try to do whatever he can and the nurses can do simple cut outs and blood tests and send them to the big city.

Then if the test come back positive, the locals have to travel to the big city hospital, which is usually the capital city. Or if it’s southern African they can try to hit a big hospital in South Africa.

He worked in what was then Zaire and describe the hospitals in Kinshasa as barely better than any clinic in the middle of Zaire run by Catholic nuns. He said Europeans would always somehow get flown to South Africa, Israel, (what was then) Rhodesia or Europe.

He also told me Africans have a much different view of death. That they are very accepting of life and disease as “just the way it is.”

Not necessarily. Yes, there are many generic cancer drugs. Even if there is a newer and more popular drug that’s more effective, that doesn’t mean they don’t work. (I think there’s also some evidence that more expensive drugs get used more because people think they have to be better or they wouldn’t cost more.) And some of the most common chemotherapy drugs were developed decades ago, so those are off-patent, too.

I’m sure there is a lack of medical facilities and diagnostic centers in many of these countries, but that’s also being worked on as companies see opportunities to make money there.

Actually, Ivan is more correct than you give him credit for, but only with some types of cancer. Cancer can be caused by many different mechanisms, amongst which are oxidative damage from external sources (carcinogens, excessive catabolic stress), DNA damage from radiation or light (often thymidine cross linking), viral infection, or even solely by inheritance.

Some cancers are caused when tumor suppressor genes are destroyed or inactivated. Fortunately, we have two sets of chromosomes so we have a backup should something unfortunate happen. In some folks, they inherit a bum copy of a tumor suppressor gene and so all it takes is a single mutation to the good copy for them to get cancer. This often presents as an individual who develops multiple individually derived tumors.

Good examples of this are neurofibromatosis 1, xeroderma pigmentosum, and retinoblastoma. Look em up, all genetically inherited extreme susceptibility to cancer.

Actually, in a manner of speaking women “catch” cervical cancer, via HPV. It’s a much more deadly problem in the developing world than it is in the U.S., precisely because poor women are less likely to get regular Pap smears and thereby catch it early, when it is quite treatable. Pap smears are pretty cheap.

True, but even in those cases a mutation is needed.