Lung cancer is Latin America’s deadliest neoplasm, but frequently gets less attention than other major cancers. Until recently, the implications were small: unless caught very early—which is difficult given a lack of distinct symptoms at that stage—the prognosis was poor anyway. Medical advances, though, now hold out the hope of prolonged life, or even cures, for a growing, if still small, number of patients. It is time to look more closely at the region’s response to this disease and current strengths and weaknesses of efforts to address it. Doing so will require understanding the regional peculiarities of the lung-cancer burden. The drivers of the disease differ from those in most developed countries. While tobacco smoking remains the dominant issue, poverty—and the attendant use of indoor solid fuels for cooking and heating—appears to play an important role in certain countries, as does the natural environment, especially sometimes high levels of arsenic in groundwater. These differences in risk factors, in turn, affect the genetics of lung tumours, and therefore treatment potential. The lung-cancer challenge in Latin America, therefore, needs to be understood on its own terms. Data deficiencies, though, inevitably impede almost any cancer-control discussion in the region. Accordingly, for this project, The Economist Intelligence unit has conducted two substantial research efforts: an economic model to estimate the direct and indirect costs of lung cancer in 12 countries in the region (known as the study countries)1 ; and a bench-marking tool to assess, in those same countries, the state of national lung-cancer control efforts across various domains. These, along with insights from 23 regional experts, collectively inform this study.
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