The challenge professionals in the field are facing is two-fold. On the one hand, there is scarcity of trained manpower. On the other, the population is growing. While international standards recommend operating one radiotherapy machine per one million inhabitants, Bangladesh still has only 24 machines for its population of 166 million.
In addition, the majority of patients reach hospitals and healthcare centres at a stage of disease so advanced that the only available treatment is palliative care to alleviate pain. This is not only because of a lack of facilities, but also due to a lack of awareness: patients usually do not approach a healthcare centre even if they have the symptoms.
“If we address these problems, that is, accessibility, awareness, and more well-trained medical staff, in ten years things will change dramatically,” Uddin said. He, like many others in the field, are confident that the development of centres beyond the capital is the way to go.
“Bangladesh has motivated, dedicated professionals, and is getting more equipment,” said Syahril Syahril, project manager at the IAEA responsible for technical cooperation with the country. “Although there are challenges ahead, we are working to ensure that patients have and will continue to have all the available solutions.”