First imPACT Mission to Benin
Mothers and children wait for diagnosis and treatment at a clinic in Benin. (Photo: IAEA/PACT)
A cancer diagnosis is always frightening news for the patient, the patient's family and friends. A cancer diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence, if cancer care is available. For patients in Benin, the cancer treatment capacity cannot meet demand - a tragic reality that is repeated throughout the developing world where cancer has reached epidemic proportions. Hundreds of thousands of cancer sufferers in developing countries face an uncertain fate.
In Benin, the increasing number of cancer cases has prompted the authorities to take action and develop a three-year national cancer plan aimed at reducing the cancer morbidity and mortality. To find a solution, the Beninese Health Ministry requested the IAEA's Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) to conduct the country's first imPACT Review Mission, a comprehensive assessment of Benin's cancer control and capacity needs. Held from 8 to 12 April 2013 as part of the WHO-IAEA Joint Programme on Cancer Control, the mission team reviewed all aspects of cancer control from cancer information to prevention and early detection, diagnosis and treatment, palliative care and radiation safety assessment.
The imPACT Mission learned that currently Benin does not have specialized cancer treatment services or doctors with expertise in oncology. Beninese medical experts estimate that only three or four Beninese doctors are receiving cancer training abroad.
With a population of 9.1 million, those few experts will not suffice to meet the growing national demand for skilled cancer treatment.
According to the Beninese Health Ministry, the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women between 2007 and 2012 were breast cancer (32.5%), cancer of the cervix (16.8%) and malignancies (6.8%). In men, prostate cancer (18.2%), hematologic cancer (15.4%) and liver cancer (13.9%) were the most common forms of cancer.
During the Mission, the eight-member imPACT Review Team of internationally recognized cancer diagnosis and treatment experts from the WHO Regional Office for Africa and the International Agency for Research on Cancer visited several health facilities. In Cotonou, Benin's largest city and economic capital, and in Parakou, the largest city in eastern Benin, the team met medical professionals in university hospitals, healthcare centres. They also met representatives of a Beninese NGO working to advance cancer control, the "Association Franco-Béninoise de lutte contre le Cancer".
Professor Dorothée A. Kinde-Gazard, Benin's Minister of Health, met the team on arrival and was de-briefed upon the Team's departure. Highlighting the key actions to effectively fight cancer, Minister Kinde-Gazard said, "The prevention and the early screening of the disease are crucial when it comes to the cure of cancer, as many types of the disease can be cured nowadays."
As part of IAEA assistance to the country, Benin has an IAEA Technical Cooperation project to support the development of a feasibility study for the establishment of a radiotherapy centre in Cotonou. A comprehensive approach to cancer control will help maximize efforts and improve cancer survival.
The imPACT Mission Team will deliver its final report to the Beninese Ministry of Health and it will serve as a guide to strengthen the three-year national cancer plan Benin has launched to fight cancer.
-- By Milene Pacheco, IAEA Division of Public Information
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