Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Fighting cancer by Cuban medicine

Among the most common tests include the cervical-vaginal cytology for detection and prevention of cervical cancer and stool tests, which detects the presence of blood, a procedure that can indicate if there is bowel cancer. In the search for cancer control Cuba created a Program of Integral Control, whose objectives are, in addition to appropriate treatment, prevention and timely diagnosis [the right time].

Among the actions promoted by the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba (MINSAP) are: investment in prevention and simple preparation of the population for the purpose of controlling risk factors such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse and vaginal infection control; apart from the periodic preventive examinations. Among the most common tests include the cervical-vaginal cytology for detection and prevention of cervical cancer and stool tests, which detects the presence of blood, a procedure that can indicate if there is bowel cancer.

Cancer is a disease that brings together about 203 species of tumor diseases, causing currently more deaths than HIV \ AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. However, despite its high mortality rate, 40% of all forms of cancer can be prevented through prevention and 30% are curable if diagnosed in the early stages, indicating that the fight against the disease is not restricted to pharmacological advances in medicine, but mainly through social and educational activities among the population.

Specialty Medicine

In Cuba today, there are between 115 000 and 120 000 patients diagnosed with malignancy, i.e. cancer. The MINSAP recognize some problems in the health network, such as technological obsolescence and inadequacy of funds, however, the public system to fight cancer, and effective treatment, is offered entirely free to the public.  

Among the types of treatment offered is in pediatric oncology. Cuba registers an average of 300 new cases of malignancy in children per year, becoming the third leading cause of infant death in the group of one to four years of age and the second in the age range from five to 14 years. Cuba has nine centers oncohematology across the country.

In addition to efforts to diagnose these children as soon as possible, the MINSAP works with the policy of prevention of these diseases and improving the quality of life of patients who are already receiving treatment.


Providing health care to the population is one of the areas that requires more public investment by states. The global market for oncology drugs is around 91 billion dollars, growing at an annual rate of 5.4%. The average cost of a cancer treatment with drugs of U.S. brands doubled in the last decade and may now reach 10 thousand dollars monthly.

Inside National Medicines Cuba a greater number of drugs are being provided free of charge to patients under treatment: from 28 in 1999 to 67 in 2014. Of these, the Cuban national industry produces 28 types, helping to reduce the financial impact. Regarding imports, about 35% of all drugs are imported by Cuba for cancer treatment.

The Group of Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Industries, best known for BioCubaFarma, is a state group that has as objective to develop and produce drugs for pharmaceutical technology, fostering  the national chemical industry and ensuring the continuity and development of medical treatments of the Cuban people, without compromising the national finances.

Living with cancer

There are types of cancer that, although they cannot be cured, can be controlled, turning into chronic illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure among others, a situation similar to what the world has lived with type I diabetes since the middle of the twentieth century.

Advances in technology and the increase in life expectancy in Cuba generated a new demand for medicine: a greater number of people suffering with some neoplasia, but living increasingly longer, experiencing chronic treatments. Such patients should have accompanied their reintegration into society.

For this group it is necessary to develop less toxic, financially affordable drugs suitable for continuous use, incorporating them within strategies of treatment for attention, and greater involvement of health professionals in the primary care level in the communities.
With information CubaDebate Portal


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