IAEA Commits to Aid Belize in Developing Cancer Care Initiatives

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Updated: February 6, 2017

Earlier in our newscast we told you of the Special Envoy’s visit to Austria for a panel discussion on cancer care in developing countries.  The discussion was hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency that estimates that by 2030, over two thirds of all cancer related deaths will occur in developing countries and that over five thousand radiotherapy machines will be required in low and middle income countries to meet the current demand for cancer care, in addition to ten thousand radiation oncologists, six thousand medical physicists, three thousand dosimetrists and twenty thousand radiation therapists for adequate care.  As it relates locally, the Government of Belize has been presented with priority recommendations from the IAEA including the establishment of a cancer control unit in the Ministry of Health and a national cancer registry to collect and analyse data.  According to the IAEA, work on the establishment of a national cancer centre could start soon.  Meanwhile, however the IMPACT Team that was in Belize last December to conduct an analysis is recommending that Belize enter into agreements with cancer centres in neighboring countries whereby local doctors can make referrals for radiotherapy and other cancer treatments not available locally.  With the help of the IAEA, Belize will be using modern equipment to diagnose cancers and non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.  Back in 2010 and 2012, IAEA safety experts visited Belize to evaluate its radiation safety regulatory status and recommend steps to take. Subsequently, Belize’s government has expressed its commitment to follow the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. In January, IAEA experts trained a group of technical and legal personnel from CARICOM countries on drafting radiation safety regulations. National radiation safety law is also under development. Following IAEA standards, the government will establish a regulatory body for radiation safety in accordance with the national law.  The law and regulations will provide a framework for the safe use of radiation technologies. The corresponding regulatory control will ensure delivering proper doses to patients and protecting workers, using well-functioning equipment, training qualified personnel and empowering a regulatory body to control all activities involving radiation. Through a technical cooperation project, the IAEA will train Belizean health professionals in the use of imaging techniques such as X rays and ultrasound images, support the set-up of the adequate infrastructure and equipment, and guide authorities on radiation safety.  Part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by world leaders in 2015, there is a commitment to reduce early deaths from chronic diseases, including cancer, by one third by 2030. According to The Lancet Oncology 2015, approximately ninety seven billion US dollars would be required to enable full access to radiotherapy for all patients in need in low and middle income countries by 2035.