Vietnam’s Urgent Health Concerns

A new report says the cancer death rate in Vietnam is among world’s highest, with 73% of 110,000 annual cancer cases resulting in death — which seems to underscore the urgency of Vietnam balancing the needs of its people and its economy.

Speaking in Vietnam’s capital, a director of Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital told an international conference on cancer that Vietnam’s cancer death rate far exceeds the 60% world average and 49% average for developed countries.

Vietnam’s most common cancers are lung, breast, large intestine, stomach, liver, prostate, uterus, cervix, esophagus, bladder, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, oral cavity, leukemia, pancreas, ovary and kidney.  Women are six times more likely to have cervical cancer in Ho Chi Minh City  than in Hanoi — where breast cancer is more common; men are more likely to have liver cancer in HCMC and lung cancer in Hanoi.

Cancer diagnoses are increasing by up to 30% per year, and the main reason most of the patients die is particularly concerning:  They wait to see doctors until their conditions are in late stages.

These reports highlight two of Vietnam’s most urgent needs:

  1. Preventive health care and early diagnoses — People need to be encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles (such as quitting smoking) and to seek medical care when they are sick; they also need confidence they will get and can afford quality care.
  2. Environmental protection — Many of the cancers that are killing Vietnamese people are linked to poor air quality, water pollution, food contaminants, and other environmental hazards.

Vietnam’s government has said much about its effort to balance the needs of people, environment, and economy.  It’s incorporated in the communist philosophy.  The latest cancer report is a stark reminder that Vietnam needs to balance its priorities.


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