Her mother Shipri Rani was gently massaging her daughter’s forehead, struggling to keep a hold on herself. Meanwhile, Priyanka’s father Porimol was running around the hospital seeking help in filling out a form for financial support from the Department of Social Services. “I have run out of money. I need the financial support to continue my daughter’s treatment,” he said. The distressed father said his daughter was diagnosed with brain tumour in December last year. In January, her doctors told the family that the tumour had become cancerous. Porimol and Shipri, who live in Barisal, immediately took their daughter to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. There, she was referred to the NICRH, where she was admitted on January 14. Porimol is a simple carpenter and the sole breadwinner for the family and he has spent all his savings – as well as the money he borrowed – to pay for his daughter’s treatment.
He said one of the doctors at the hospital had advised him to apply for financial support from the Department of Social Services.
“My monthly income is only $100. How am I supposed to save my daughter if I do not get the financial support?” he asked, in tears.
His helplessness is echoed by many families both at the NICRH and at other hospitals with cancer treatment facilities in Dhaka.
Cancer treatment is becoming increasingly inaccessible for the lower and lower-middle income families every day, not only due to the lack of treatment facilities outside Dhaka, but also owing to the gradual rise in treatment costs.
At the nine government hospitals in the country that treat cancer, a full course of radiotherapy costs between $300 and $500
At private facilities, the cost ranges between $2000 usd dollar and $5000 usd dollar
According to the World Health Organisation, the number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next two decades, with developing countries facing the majority of the risk.
Cancer specialists said even with the government hospitals providing medicines free of cost to at least 50% of the patients, the families of many cancer patients are still unable to bear expenses and stop treatment halfway.
Dr Mafizur Rahman, associate professor of radiation oncology at NICRH, said the exact cost of cancer treatments varied depending on the type and stage of cancer.
“Given the situation at the hospitals, it is obvious that even the cheap treatment at the government hospitals are too expensive for many people,” he told the Dhaka Tribune