Tue, Oct 09, 2018 - Page 4 News List

University helps Eswatini treat cancer locally

SELF-SUFFICIENCY:The country has been relying on South Africa due to a local lack of oncologists, which is costly, and a Taiwanese team is developing domestic capabilities

Staff writer, with CNA

Taipei Medical University is assisting Eswatini, Taiwan’s only African ally, with a program to improve cancer treatments in the country, the program’s planner said.

More than 1,000 people in Eswatini are diagnosed with cancer each year, said Liao Say-tsung (廖學聰), a resident physician at Taipei Medical University Hospital’s Division of Rheumatology and Immunology.

Citing cancer patient registration data from Eswatini, Liao said that there were more than 1,400 new cases in 2014 and 2015, most of whom had cervical, prostate, bladder or breast cancer, as well as Kaposi’s sarcoma — a rare tumor that can affect carriers of human herpesvirus 8.

Cancer is a large financial burden for Eswatini, a country where 80 percent of the population is farmers, Liao said.

There is a chemotherapy center in Eswatini, but there are no oncologists and prescription drugs are so expensive that cancer patients are often forced to stop medication, he said.

Serious cases have to be transferred to South Africa, but people “have to line up and the wait list is very long,” said Liao, who is deputy chief of the hospital’s medical mission in Eswatini.

The situation became worse after South Africa in the second half of last year stopped accepting cancer patients from the country, because it was unable to collect payments from Eswatini, Liao said.

Swazi health authorities sought assistance in September last year, leading the hospital to propose the program, Liao said.

Under the program, Taipei Medical University is training physicians, healthcare personnel, radiation specialists and medical technologists from Eswatini to treat people with cancer so that the nation can become self-reliant, Liao said.

The first batch of trainees completed their courses over the summer and returned to Eswatini this month, Liao said.

After helping Eswatini resolve its lack of specialists, the aim is to develop and promote tests for early diagnosis and screening services, as well as hospice treatment and care for people with terminal diseases, Liao said.

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