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Doctor calls for equal attention to the social needs of cancer patients

Published:Wednesday | July 13, 2016 | 7:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

San Jose, Costa Rica:

While not downplaying the significance of having proper infrastructure in place, in addition to easy access to treatment for cancer patients, Allan Bejarano, technical coordinator and adviser at the Costa Rican Department of Social Security and the University of Costa Rica, said it is critical that leaders give equal priority to the social needs of patients.

"The social vulnerability of some of these patients are real. The access is there, but some of these patients have no bus fare to get to the hospital. That lady who has breast cancer was probably hungry before she got to the hospital, and so we have to take a wholesome approach to treatment," he told journalists at the 2016 Roche Press Conference, which was held at the Marriott Hotel in San JosÈ, Costa Rica, last Thursday.

"For many countries in Latin America, there are a lot of fears and mistrust of the system. Waiting time at the hospitals is very long, among other issues. We also have to support the non-governmental organisations, because you find that some persons who implement these organisations were themselves patients, and, as such, are better able to guide people through the process," he said.

The technical director also suggested that there be greater collaboration between governments and academia so that more research will be available to make citizens more aware.

Dr Maira Caleffi, president of the Brazilian Federation of Philanthropic Institutions for the Breast Health Support and a breast surgeon, expressed similar sentiments, saying that partnership was integral for any health-care system to be sustainable.

"We have to ensure that there is access to information so that there is sensitisation at every level. Sometimes the issue is not that there is no access but people just don't know. It should not be left to the specialist alone. Everyone has a part to play," she charged.