Welcome to a journey through Thailand’s dynamic battle against the stealthy adversary that is cancer! In 2022, the luminous Land of Smiles was confronted with a somber statistic: approximately 140,000 new cancer warriors stepping onto the battlefield, with a devastating 84,000 succumbing to the illness, as relayed by data from the National Cancer Institute, Department of Medical Services.
Yet, amidst the shadow of this daunting challenge, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health unveils a glimmer of hope with its 30-baht plus policy. This robust shield of comprehensive cancer care is a Quick Win policy designed to bring timely treatments to the forefront. Accompanying this is the valiant “Cancer Warrior” project, a beacon of early detection allowing precious time for treatment to those in need. Liver cancer, the notorious nemesis with its complex, multiple attack vectors, now faces a formidable opponent in the form of high-quality medicine and sophisticated technology. This armamentarium spans the whole continuum, from prevention to palliation, backed by the strategic alliances with the National Health Security Office and the Social Security Office, empowering comprehensive cancer screening endeavors.
Diving into the heart of Asia, we witness a startling revelation by Dr. Napa Siriwiwattanakul, Director of the National Cancer Institute. It is in Asia that liver cancer casts its long shadow over 73.3% of the continent’s populace as per GLOBOCAN WHO: Liver 2020 data. With villains like hepatitis B and C lurking, and the peril of needle sharing, one realizes how hepatitis B can insidiously leap from mother to child. An infected individual stands a 2% annual risk of the disease morphing into liver cancer, while traces of hepatitis C carry a 1-4% chance per annum of the same cruel transformation.
In a stark comparison, Thailand, a global contender, ranks 4th in liver cancer mortality with an alarming 26,704 lives lost each year. As conveyed by Dr. Jamrus Pongpit, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, death’s steady drumbeat marks three losses every hour. With liver cancer reigning as the utmost lethal cancer, it emerges that hepatocellular carcinoma, stealthy in its early stages, often remains unnoticed till it’s too late. Thus, urgent discourse and action for treatment options are called for, eagerly anticipating a collective effort for Thailand’s betterment.
Step into the future, where the fight against advanced liver cell cancer steps into new realms. Col. Asst. Prof. Naiyarat Prasongsook, M.D., shares insights into the frontier treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma. Imagine a survival rate lifted to 10-13 months with targeted therapy, and behold the horizon widening to 19.2 months globally – an awe-inspiring 24 months in China – with the power duo of immunotherapy and antiangiogenic drugs. Yet, this innovation still lies beyond the reach of current benefit packages, a hurdle yet to be overcome for liver cancer patients in Thailand.
Meet Mr. Weerayut Yodkam, a liver patient whose tale of resilience begins in 2019. Initially embattled by antiviral drugs and the ensuing side effects of targeted therapy, his hands and feet bore the brunt of his struggle. Yet, he found solace and recovery in immunotherapy combined with antiangiogenic drugs – no side effects, just hope. Despite the daunting cost and absence from the 30-baht healthcare scheme, his steady recovery offers a testament to life’s value and the importance of accessible care.
With unwavering conviction, Dr. Jakkrit Ngowsiri, Deputy Secretary-General of NHSO, declares cancer medicine as a fundamental human right. The NHSO’s commitment is to level the playing field, ensuring that all Thais receive this right equally. In a bold move, the NHSO suggests bypassing time-consuming bureaucratic procedures for new treatments, substituting expensive therapies with those more cost-effective, without waiting for the slow machinery of national lists.
Prof. Dr. Pisit Tangkijvanich from King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital proposes a pragmatic approach: prioritize those at advanced stages who stand to benefit most from treatment, paving the way for universal access. The efficacy of immunotherapy, when turned to the local Thai populace, reflects encouraging results mirroring global studies.
Roche Thailand, a stalwart ally in healthcare, champions this endeavor, ceaselessly funneling resources into research and development, reaffirming an unyielding commitment to Thailand’s battle against cancer.
So, as Thailand braces against the tide of cancer, its people are not alone. This is a realm where hope is cultivated, where medicine and policy intertwine to weave a stronger safety net for all, and where innovation forges pathways to a brighter, healthier future.