Global Health Asia-Pacific March 2022 March 2022 - Page 27

Stool microbes may hold key to pancreatic cancer detection
A simple kit could offer a much-needed screening option for the extremely lethal condition

Ateam of researchers has identified specific microorganisms in stool samples that could help diagnose or predict the risk of pancreatic cancer , one of the world ’ s deadliest malignancies due to detection and treatment challenges .

“ In many cases , once pancreatic cancer is detected , it is too late . We need to diagnose the disease at a much earlier stage , before symptoms appear . To do this , we need to identify and define the population at risk and have good screening tests to detect the cancer when it is still curable ,” said the researchers in a press release .
The new test promises to meet these needs by providing patients with a kit that can quickly detect the genomes of the cancer-related microbes in stool samples in an affordable and non-invasive way .
If successful , this would be a significant advancement as there are still no proven screening methods for pancreatic cancer , one of the main reasons so many patients succumb to the disease .
In 2020 , almost half a million patients with pancreatic malignancies succumbed to the disease , accounting for 4.7 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide , according to Globocan . This is a significant number given that pancreatic cancer is rare , making up just 2.6 percent of new cancer cases that year .
WHO calls for closing the equity gap in cancer care
Inequality in cancer services means many patients die of treatable conditions

Cancer is a global public health challenge , with about 20 million new cases and 10 million deaths in 2021 , but not all cancer patients receive equal treatment as stark inequities exist in the availability of care around the world , said the World Health Organization .

Many types of cancers , including the more common ones like breast and colon , are now curable if diagnosed and treated early , but many areas in the world still lack the healthcare resources to deal with them . For example , while comprehensive cancer treatment is available in 90 percent of high-income countries , less than 15 percent of low-income ones can boast the same .
With more resources , many deaths could be avoided . For instance , the five-year survival rate for breast cancer exceeds 80 percent in high-income nations , while it stands at 66 percent in India and drops to 40 percent in South Africa . This is why the WHO is making efforts to close “ the care gap ,” the theme for this year ’ s World Cancer Day , by improving care for breast , cervical , and childhood cancers in low- and middle-income countries with the help of 200 partners investing in research , prevention , and treatment .
The UN health agency is recommending that countries set up national cancer centres because it has found that health outcomes improve when prevention and diagnosis services as well as multidisciplinary treatment and supportive care are concentrated under one roof .
It has also released a guide to help health authorities make the best decisions on screening programmes , while launching the project Rays of Hope to increase access to radiotherapy , a key therapeutic option for about half of cancer patients .
GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com MARCH 2022
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