Creating and Sustaining Cancer Movements: An all of society approach to cancer control

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Published: 22 Nov 2013
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Dr Elmer Huerta - Washington Hospital center, USA

Dr Elmer Huerta speaks to ecancertv at the 5th International Cancer Control Congress in Lima, Peru. “The problem with cancer in Latin America is advanced cancer,” he explains.  He discusses the mobile prevention units in Peru and the outcomes of hosting a large international cancer conference in Latin America.

5th International Cancer Control Congress

Creating and Sustaining Cancer Movements: An all of society approach to cancer control

Dr Elmer Huerta - Washington Hospital Center, USA


In Latin America the problem is advanced cancer. That is unfortunate but, for example in Peru, up to 80% of all cases of cancer are stage 3, 4, advanced and incurable. What happens is that we are lacking the cultural prevention in the community and we are also lacking bringing the locally adapted screening methods to the communities. Countries need to work in a local facility that can put together a programme that is tailored for that community. In other words it is not the same to offer cancer screening, for example, in Lima, in this capital of eight million people than to offer cancer screening programmes in the forest, in the jungle or in the mountains. So public health professionals need to be very flexible in providing cancer screening that are adapted to the local communities. It is extremely important not to think that one method is going to work for the whole country.

Tell us a little bit about prevention mobile units in Peru?

In Peru, yes, there is a group called Oncosalud and they do have a programme, a mobile programme; that’s extremely important. The only thing is that any mobile programme needs to have a very strong referral programme because people who are poor, people who are under-served, people who are lacking health insurance, they are going to take advantage that a truck is going to their neighbourhood but what if we find something? We need to make sure that every finding is really resolved and therefore we need to really have a very strong referral programme to make sure that we are not just going there as a marketing enterprise but we are going there to really help people and make sure that if we find something that something is resolved.

What could be the outcomes of a congress like the ICCC5 for Latin America?

I think the main objective of a conference on cancer control being held here in Peru and Latin America is to make sure that people, especially people who are in a position of power, understand the importance of cancer control. Unfortunately when people think about cancer they only think about treatment – surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy or any kind of treatment. People don’t think in cancer control terms. They don’t think that cancer is a condition that has many routes in society. So one of the wonderful things that this congress can do is to promote the concept of cancer control in the community, that’s why I was so happy to listen to the President of Peru today when he was talking about the need for developing a prevention culture in society. He was warning people that cancer is silent and that if people wait long enough to see the doctor they are going to be already out of control. So I think coming from the President that’s going to trickle down to all officials and one of the main objectives of this meeting has been already accomplished.