Taiwan helping eSwatini tackle cancer

Taipei, Oct. 7 (CNA) Taipei Medical University is assisting the Kingdom of eSwatini with a cancer program to help Taiwan’s only African ally improve its ability to treat cancer patients and offer them proper health care, the program planner has said.

Each year more than 1,000 people in eSwatini are diagnosed with cancer, said Liao Say-tsung (???), a resident physician in Taipei Medical University Hospital’s (TMUH) Division of Rheumatology and Immunology, in a recent interview with CNA.

Citing cancer patient registration data from eSwatini, Liao said there were more than 1,400 new cancer patients there in 2014 and 2015, most suffering from cervical, prostate, bladder and breast cancer as well as Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare tumor that occurs due to a type of herpesvirus.

The patients have been a big financial burden on eSwatini, a country with 80 percent of the population living off farming, Liao said.

Though there is a chemotherapy center in eSwatini, there are no oncologists, and prescription drug costs are so high that cancer patients are often forced to stop taking medication.

Serious cancer cases have to be transferred to South Africa to get proper medical treatment, but “patients have to queue up, and the wait list is very long,” said Liao, who has served as the deputy chief of the TMUH medical mission in eSwatini.

The situation got worse after South Africa stopped accepting cancer patients from the landlocked monarchy in the second half of 2017 because it was unable to collect payment from eSwatini for the medical bills, according to Liao.

eSwatini health authorities decided to seek assistance from the university in September 2017, leading TMUH to propose the cooperation program to tackle cancer in the country, Liao said.

Under the program, he went on, Taipei Medical University trains eSwatini physicians, health care personnel, radiation specialists and medical technologists to treat cancer patients, so that the country can do the job on its own.

The first batch of trainees completed their courses over the summer and returned to eSwatini in October, Liao said.

After helping eSwatini resolve the urgent lack of specialists, the program’s next steps are to develop and promote early cancer diagnostic tests and screening services, as well as hospice treatment and care for terminal cancer patients, Liao said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel