PACT Journeys to Jordan for Cancer Assessment Mission

2 March 2012

Situated squarely in the Middle East, Jordan is a land rich in both history and opportunity. Its ancient historical sites are known the world over while its young, vibrant population is among the most highly educated in the region.

Yet a precarious combination of behaviours and attitudes among Jordanians is causing an increase in cancer incidence and mortality in Jordan. Half of Jordanian men smoke and tobacco use among females is on the rise. Roughly two-thirds of the population are overweight or obese and levels of physical inactivity are high. General anxiety of a cancer diagnosis prevents many from seeking medical treatment when dangerous symptoms appear.

To assist Jordan tackle its cancer burden, the IAEA in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a mission in late January to support the government and health professionals to better identify where improvements in cancer control and planning can be made, including cancer prevention, early detection, screening treatment and palliative care, as well as monitoring of cancer patterns, including cancer registries.

Cancer control and planning in Jordan fits into the broader WHO framework to strengthen the health system in Jordan with a major focus on primary health care, and as part of the implementation of the Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2008.

The imPACT mission visited several hospitals and cancer-related institutions from 29-31 January, assembling information to present the Ministry of Health with a full picture of Jordan's cancer control capacity and opportunities for improvement. The team was comprised of several experts nominated by cancer-related bodies and organizations, including the WHO, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the Asia and Pacific Organization for Cancer Prevention and Control (APOCP), the IAEA Division of Human Health and the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) and funding for the mission was provided by the IAEA's Technical Cooperation Programme.

Though several hospitals and clinics exist throughout the country to fight cancer, many Jordanians living with cancer seek treatment when the disease has progressed to late stages. More education is needed to increase awareness among Jordanians on cancer risk factors and the early signs of cancer in order to prevent deaths. And with some of the highest rates of smoking globally, there is a clear need to increased tobacco control efforts.

A report to the Jordanian Minister of Health will soon be delivered, detailing the mission's findings and recommendations.