Friday January 24, 2020

Health System Failure for Cancer Patients in Venezuela

Last year, about 4,700 women in Venezuela became ill with breast cancer, according to the Anticancer Society of Venezuela

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Cancer
Cancer Patients are not just afraid of the disease itself, but they also fear dying because they cannot find or afford the necessary treatment. Pixabay

A breast cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough at any time. But for 49-year-old Grecia Solis, the arduous choices faced by all cancer patients were complicated by the crippling decline of Venezuela’s public health facilities.

After her diagnosis two years ago, doctors recommended surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Before the oil-producing nation’s steep economic decline of recent years, those services would have been available free of charge or for a nominal fee at a state-run public hospital.

But trained staff, medicines and equipment are in such short supply at those facilities today that a public hospital was no longer an option. Instead, Solis was forced to borrow money from family and friends to pay for her operation at a privately run, for-profit clinic.

Her operation, performed in May 2018, cost her $500, a modest amount by U.S. standards, but a huge sum in Venezuela where hyperinflation has ravaged most people’s savings. With additional financial help from a sister in Ecuador, Solis was able to pay for the recommended eight sessions of chemotherapy, which were completed in December.

Solis’ story is a common one among cancer patients in Venezuela. Patients are not just afraid of the disease itself, but they also fear dying because they cannot find or afford the necessary treatment.

Last year, about 4,700 women in Venezuela became ill with breast cancer, according to the Anticancer Society of Venezuela, although the nation’s health ministry has not produced official figures since 2012. The society reported 2,300 women died last year from the disease, one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among Venezuelan women.

Cancer
A breast cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough at any time. Pixabay

Senos Ayuda, an NGO that supports breast cancer patients, estimates the number of patients are even higher, at almost 7,000 a year. And it stresses that treatment, medicine and doctors are becoming ever less accessible with the deepening of the nation’s humanitarian emergency.

The problem is part of a wider crisis in public health facilities. According to several Venezuelan doctors’ organizations, 73% of the country’s operating rooms are out of service or lack supplies and have unsanitary conditions.

A survey conducted by the organization Doctors for Health indicated that 90% of radiotherapy facilities are inoperative, 94% of health centers cannot take an X-ray, and 88% of hospitals have insufficient supplies and medicines. The Anticancer Society of Venezuela has reported that 80% of public radiotherapy equipment has been inoperative in the last year.

Solis says she is frustrated the government of President Nicolas Maduro does not accept that Venezuela is in a humanitarian crisis and has done little to address the problem, leading to avoidable cancer deaths.

Cancer
Since 2018, 400,700 women in Venezuela have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. According to the Anti-Cancer Society in Venezuela, getting an accurate numbers of patients is unlikely. Since 2012, the Ministry of Health does not offer official figures. VOA

Another patient, 58-year-old Algeria Dias, was diagnosed with a breast tumor in August 2017. She was able to afford treatment with the help of family, donations, some government help and the sale of the family car, but she says she now she spends every day “going from clinic to clinic, public and private, and see if they have the space or equipment I need to monitor my disease.”

For her part, Solis says she is running out time. She has until December to raise $5,000 to pay for more than 30 additional radiotherapy sessions to prevent the likely return of her cancer.

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“Cancer does not wait. Cancer does not warn and when you have it, it overtakes you. It hurts having the uncertainty of not knowing if you can say, “I am a cancer survivor,” she said. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s How Belly Fat Increases the Risk of Heart Attack

Belly fat may lead to multiple heart attacks

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Heart Attack
Heart attack survivors who carry excess fat around their waist are at increased risk of another heart attack. Pixabay

Heart patients, please take note, here’s a new health news. Researchers have found that heart attack survivors who carry excess fat around their waist are at increased risk of another heart attack.

“Abdominal obesity not only increases your risk for a first heart attack or stroke, but also the risk for recurrent events after the first misfortune,” said study author Hanieh Mohammadi from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

Prior studies have shown that abdominal obesity is an important risk factor for having a first heart attack. But until now, the association between abdominal obesity and the risk of a subsequent heart attack or stroke was unknown.

The research, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, followed more than 22,000 patients after their first heart attack and investigated the relation between abdominal obesity (measured by waist circumference) and the risk for recurrent cardiovascular disease events. The researchers specifically looked at events caused by clogged arteries, such as fatal and non-fatal heart attack and stroke.

Heart Attack
Abdominal obesity not only increases your risk for a first heart attack or stroke, but also the risk for recurrent events after the first misfortune. Pixabay

Patients were recruited from the nationwide SWEDEHEART registry and followed for a median of 3.8 years. Most patients — 78 per cent of men and 90 per cent of women — had abdominal obesity (waist circumference 94 cm or above for men and 80 cm or above for women).

Increasing abdominal obesity was independently associated with fatal and non-fatal heart attacks and strokes, regardless of other risk factors (such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension, blood pressure, blood lipids and body mass index [BMI]) and secondary prevention treatments. According to the researchers, waist circumference was a more important marker of recurrent events than overall obesity.

The reason abdominal obesity is very common in patients with a first heart attack is that it is closely linked with conditions that accelerate the clogging of arteries through atherosclerosi, the researchers said. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and insulin resistance (diabetes) as well as raised blood lipid levels.

“Our results, however, suggest that there may be other negative mechanisms associated with abdominal obesity that are independent of these risk factors and remain unrecognised,” Mohammadi said.

“In our study, patients with increasing levels of abdominal obesity still had a raised risk for recurrent events despite being on therapies that lower traditional risk factors connected with abdominal obesity such as anti-hypertensives, diabetes medication and lipid lowering drugs,” she added.

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According to the study, the relationship between waist circumference and recurrent events was stronger and more linear in men.

“There were three times as many men in the study compared to women, contributing to less statistical power in the female group. Therefore, more studies are needed before definite conclusions can be drawn according to gender,” Mohammadi noted. (IANS)