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Clinic aims to cut costs of local cancer care

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Orange Cancer Clinic, specialising in oncology and haematology, opens on Tuesday in northeastern Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district. Hean Rangsey

Clinic aims to cut costs of local cancer care

Cambodians are now able to access quality cancer care locally, at a “seventh” of the cost of the same regimen abroad, according to Dr Eav Sokha, co-founder of the newly-opened Orange Cancer Clinic.

Speaking at the clinic’s inauguration on November 30, Dr Sokha, widely known as the Kingdom’s first oncologist, affirmed that the facility is equipped with radiotherapy technology that meets European standards.

The main purpose of founding the clinic is to supplement the health sector’s efforts to ease the plight of the sick and make their lives easier, as well as to create jobs for doctors and other health workers, he said.

Located on National Road 6 in northeastern Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district, the clinic specialises in oncology and haematology, and brings the latest technology from Europe and the US, aiming to treat patients who are unable to seek medical attention abroad.

Oncology is the science that deals with tumours and cancers, and haematology is the study of blood, blood-forming organs and associated disorders.

Dr Sokha said millions of dollars’ worth of equipment has been imported for the clinic, claiming it to be on par with Chulalongkorn Hospital’s in Thailand.

Most local cancer patients are middle-aged or elderly, he said, adding that liver, lung, breast, gastrointestinal and cervical cancer are, in order, the five most common types of cancer in the country.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) study estimated that in 2018 the number of new cancer cases in Cambodia reached 15,362, he said, noting that only about 3,000 patients received treatment locally, and another 1,500 went to neighbouring countries for care.

The remaining 10,000 are also in need of quality treatment, in line with global medical standards, he stressed.

The WHO put the number of cancer-related deaths in 2018 at 11,636.

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Dr Sokha said: “In Cambodia, access to modern cancer screening and testing is still low. In 2020, out of about 10,000 cancer patients, only 2.6 per cent were screened with a mammogram, 12.4 per cent with CT scans and 1.3 per cent with MRI, while PET/CT scans were unavailable.”

The doctor recommended at least 10 more radiotherapy machines in the Kingdom for a meaningful advance in the early detection of cancer and prompt action.

Delivering a presentation, Dr Bun Pa Poly, a doctor specialising in oncology, haematology and radiation therapy, said that in general, 90 per cent of cancer patients require radiation therapy, of which a mere 500 people can be treated annually, given Cambodia’s current capacity.

He highlighted that modern radiation techniques have enhanced the efficiency of treatment and reduced the burden on patients during and after therapy, improving their quality of life.

Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng posited that Orange Cancer Clinic would significantly reduce the prevalence of major medical and other health problems facing Cambodians.

“Each year, many Cambodians spend tens of thousands of dollars to seek treatment, especially in neighbouring countries. The new technology will be able to bring treatments and services to locals in need,” he said.

Dr Sokha noted that most patients seeking treatment have developed stage 3 or 4 cancer, underlining that a considerable portion are either undereducated on the matter, lack the financial and physical resources to obtain care, or look to traditional remedies instead.

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