ISTIH is delighted to be involved in supporting the development of a new cancer control policy and palliative care plan for the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Whilst communicable diseases remain the top health burden in the Kingdom, the burden of non-communicable diseases such as cancer is increasing. Levels of understanding of cancers amongst the public and health community remain limited, however, and clinical experience indicates that over 80% of cancer patients in Bhutan present at an advanced and often incurable stage.

Winthrop Professor Saunders, who is spearheading this initiative, says the goals of the new cancer policy and care plan are “to improve mortality and morbidity from cancer from all citizens of Bhutan, and to allow equitable access to a full range of patient centred cancer control and treatment modalities.”

The plan is set to involve the establishment of an Office of Cancer Control within the Ministry of Health, support for national cancer screening programmes, and the development of early detection programmes for breast, oral and stomach cancers. Other crucial parts of the project include the development of a comprehensive plan for community and home-based palliative care, and community education and awareness raising campaigns targeting the dangers of smoking and the need for vaccination against prevalent, potentially cancer-causing infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B.

“Tackling cancer is a complex task, which is eased with the presence of a comprehensive plan which is supported by all involved,” said Professor Saunders.

Professor Saunders is a Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Western Australia and a specialist in the diagnosis and management of breast cancer and melanoma. She is a Board Member of Cancer Australia, President of the Cancer Council of Western Australia, and an active member of the ISTIH International Outreach Advisory Committee (IOAC).

Professor Saunders previously chaired the WA Cancer Taskforce that developed a State cancer prevention and treatment plan. A cancer policy consultant at both a State and National level, Professor Saunders will contribute a wealth of clinical and research experience to the development of the new Bhutanese cancer policy and plan.

ISTIH co-sponsored a recent visit to Western Australia by a delegation of two senior Bhutanese officials, Dr Lungten Wangchuk and Dr Ugyen Tschomo. Whilst visiting the University of Western Australia, the delegation toured the University’s Clinical Training and Education Centre (CTEC) and was welcomed at a special reception.

The Bhutanese visit was jointly sponsored by ISTIH, the Cancer Council Australia and the Australian Himalayan Foundation.