A friend of mine recently asked me why Cancer services are non existent in PNG. He had to know because his mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer and the family decided to try services in the Philippines. He was paying a good amount of money out from his pocket.
So I did a bit of research and showed him that cancer accounts for less than 10% of the total disease burden in PNG.
What constitutes the other 90%?
Infections diseases constitutes about 60% and trauma takes about 20% of the pie. The rest is divided between other life style diseases.
So given the adhoc cash flow within PNG NDOH, most of the funding is for communicable diseases.
So I explained that in terms of funding and prioritising, cancer services is at the bottom of priorities. He kind of got the picture but was still very unhappy. And we went into the usual conversation about corruption, kick-backs, bribery, nepotism and the list goes on, things we are all too familiar in PNG.
So he asked, “what do ordinary Pngeans do now if one of our loved ones is diagnosed with cancer?” I told him, my honest opinion is nothing. All we can do is not to think cure but quality of life and end of life care. Dying is part of being born and living.
I think doctors caring for cancer patients in PNG should see the big picture and train in palliative and end of life care. We will continue to see increase in disease burden but resources will remain limited. Our focus should be now on preventing and use every opportunity at the primary health care level to spread this message to help change behavior and promote healthy lifestyle.