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Lung Cancer Costs America More Than $1 Billion

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The direct economic cost of lung cancer for Latin America reaches 1.35 billion dollars, according to a study published by the British magazine The Economist in Colombia on the extent of this disease in twelve countries.”In the twelve countries we include, the direct cost of lung cancer – diagnosis, treatment, palliative care – is about US$1.35 billion per year,” Martin Koehring, editor-in-chief and global health leader of The Economist Intelligence Unit, told Efe.

The study, designed to see the economic and social impact of the disease, included Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica and Bolivia. Koehring, one of the researchers in charge of preparing the report, emphasized that the direct costs should be added to the indirect costs that are those that impact the social and individual environment of those who suffer from the disease.”People cannot go to work, they die early, they cannot collaborate with society and that cost is approximately 286 million US dollars per year,” he stressed.

Rolf Hoenger, president of Roche in Latin America and one of the driving forces behind the study, told Efe that the number of deaths per year caused by the disease in Latin America deserves public attention.”To think that 60,000 people die in those twelve countries investigated of lung cancer and that it is the first cause of death (in the region), and nobody prioritizes lung cancer, that makes you think,” Hoenger reflects.

Koehring explained that each country was rated with a classification similar to the lights of a traffic light, where the red light means that a subject requires much attention, the yellow means that there is room for improvement and the green that there is a fortress.”Only 14 of all the lights we look at are green, 40 are red and 42 are yellow,” explains the specialist, summarizing the findings incorporated in the document.

Ricardo Pérez Cuevas, expert participant in the report and deputy director general of the Center for Health Systems Research (CISS) in Mexico, stressed that the study presents lung cancer “as a second-class cancer. He explained that this hierarchy translates into that there has not been enough “attention for the development of institutional capacity to address it in investment, infrastructure or staff training.

Regarding the methodology of the study, The Economist’s specialist explained that the research unit reviewed the literature, analyzed the research and policies of the 12 participating nations.”We established an advisory board that included the best lung cancer minds in the region, 24 people involved, the best in academia, policymakers, heads of national cancer institutes and patient groups,” Koehring said. This sum of data and the opinion of the specialists identified key areas that needed to be worked on.”We identified three main areas: smoking control, early diagnosis and the third was access to treatment and health,” he summarized.

In addition to these variables, the experts detected additional variables: treatment and prevention of risk factors not associated with smoking, such as air pollution, the presence of radon and indoor pollution in homes caused, for example, by burning wood. They also resorted to patient groups to measure awareness of the disease and finally evaluated the quality of existing data. In addition, the document emphasizes the stigma faced by patients.”In a recent survey in Colombia, 70% of the population blames their own lung cancer patients for their disease. It’s a very high percentage similar to Argentina and Brazil,” Koehring said. This stigma partly explains why patients arrive at treatment in advanced stages of the disease. In the region, on average, 85 percent of patients access treatment in the more advanced stages of the disease.

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