PACT Mission Assesses Cancer Burden in Nepal

23 November 2012

Featuring impressive canyons and some of the world's tallest mountains, Nepal is a land renowned for its exceptional beauty and distinctive scenery. Unfortunately, the country is not unique among many low and middle income countries facing major public health problems such as malaria, dengue, and HIV/AIDS. In addition, Nepal is further challenged by a rising incidence of non-communicable diseases among its population, including cancer. Noting the growing cancer epidemic, the Minister of Health of Nepal requested the IAEA to conduct an imPACT Review mission to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the country's cancer control capacity so the country can begin to address its most urgent needs.

Commenting on the country's cancer burden, Nepal's Secretary of Health, Dr Praveen Mishra, stated, “Cancer is not only a medical problem, but a social problem that affects patients, families and the community as a whole.”

A majority of cancer patients in Nepal seek treatment when the disease is in advanced stages, when cure is often no longer possible. When treatment is sought, it is often expensive and therefore not accessible to all. Adding to the challenge, a stigma is often attached to the disease due to misconceptions.

Conducted from 30 October - 3 November 2012, the mission was carried out within the framework of the Joint WHO–IAEA Programme on Cancer Control and was composed of international experts nominated by the IAEA, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The areas of expertise covered the full cancer control continuum, including cancer control planning, cancer information, prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and palliative care. The WHO Country Office made valuable contributions to the mission by providing staff and technical expertise on site. The imPACT Review was funded by the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI).

During the mission, the team visited healthcare facilities across the three levels of care — primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities — in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Bharatpur, the latter being a five-hour drive from the capital city. The visit to these institutions provided a good overview of the cancer-related services that are available or need to be strengthened. Encouragingly, the mission noted that Nepal has highly dedicated professionals who often work with very limited resources amid challenging conditions.

The mission team met with the Minister of Health, HE Mr Rajendra Mahto, who reiterated Nepal's commitment in taking action against cancer by prioritizing areas to be implemented and developing a cancer control policy. He also expressed the wish to continue to work with international agencies. The imPACT Mission Report, which includes findings and recommendations, will be a major input to improving cancer control in Nepal.