World Cancer Day: Pakistan lacks sufficient quantity of radiation therapy machines
With cancer a fast-rising disease and cause of death for Pakistanis, the country lacks sufficient number of radiation therapy machines which pushes treatment wait times to as long as eight weeks.
Despite being able to afford the expensive treatment, some cancer patients in Pakistan end up give up their life for want of timely radiation treatment.
According to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there are only 50 to 60 linear accelerators machines available in the country to provide radiation therapy for cancer patients.
Following the rising number of patients suffering from cancers, patients are usually given treatment times around three to eight weeks away.
Aga Khan Hospital Radiation and Oncology Department Head Dr Bilal Mazhar Qureshi told SAMAA TV that radiation therapy makes up a major part of the treatment for cancer patients. The other is chemotherapy.
If a patient misses any radiation cycle or an extended gap comes in treatment; then there the chance for cancer to recur in the head and neck increases by 1.5%, Dr Qureshi said.
At the moment, he opined, the country faces a shortage of around 150 machines.
Pakistan needs at least 200 radiation machines to cater to the rising spread of cancer in country, he suggested.
The main hurdle in acquiring more machines, however, is the fact that a radiation therapy machine costs more than Rs5 billion.
It is thus no surprise that a majority of the machines functioning at hospitals in Pakistan currently are quite old, Dr Qureshi said.
Apart from machines, he said that there is a shortage of trained manpower in the country for carrying out the radiation process properly. For this purpose, there was a need to build radiation oncology centers to train technicians.