Even with all the technology, support rallies, and well-funded research, being a cancer patient in the US is a difficult experience. The uncertainty that surrounds each treatment and step forward would cause anyone to develop anxiety, depression, and lots of other psychological despair.
Now imagine not being in the US, where the treatment facilities are top-notch and cutting-edge research promises a path towards recovery. In much of the developing world, the physical pathway to a clinic can be a mere dirt road with little security to protect travelers from bandits, dishonest police officers, or ethnic purists. In the slim chance that there is an oncology clinic, let alone a health clinic, within walking distance or along a public transport route, the explicit costs (how much is paid out of pocket for treatment) and the implicit costs (the wages you don’t earn when you take a day off work to go to a doctor’s) make the trip extremely expensive and dangerous.
Luckily, a number of nonprofits and celebrities have been putting their weight behind improving access to cancer treatments for those who live in developing nations.
In February of 2017, Harvard University awarded their prestigious Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian of the Year award to pop singer, model, and entrepreneur Robyn Fenty, known by her mononymous stage name Rihanna. A native of Barbados, an island among the small smattering between Puerto Rico and Venezuela, Rihanna helped build oncology centers and stock them with medication, trained medical professionals, and other amenities so that her fellow Barbadians could seek treatment for their various cancers.
Rihanna’s oncology center, which also helps develop nuclear technology and detect early stages of breast cancer, is an addendum to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados. Prior to her donation, the citizens of Barbados usually had to leave the island to seek treatment, a cost many of the natives couldn’t afford at all. Many Barbadians died of perfectly treatable diseases for want of a doctor and a facility, but Rihanna has helped to bridge the gap in treatment.
In West Africa, many Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) have begun putting on pop-up clinics to teach locals about the signs of various cancers, screen them if they show any symptoms, and offer care to them if a tumor is discovered. In many of these areas, schooling is a privilege, and information that many Westerners consider common knowledge reads like a fresh discovery to workers in less-developed parts of the planet. In Ghana, for example, volunteers helped present information in Kumasi, a territory in the central region, to women who had received little to no formal education about breast cancer prevention and treatment. By bringing in medical professionals to teach accurate information, many generations of women how have greater agency over their bodies and will enjoy a longer, healthier life.