The World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have released new guidance on procurement of radiotherapy equipment that could improve access to this life-saving cancer treatment option that is still lacking in many parts of the world.
According to the WHO, the new technical guidance aims to ensure that the selection of radiotherapy equipment is appropriate to country and health facility contexts, that treatment is delivered safely, that quality is maintained, and that services are sustainable.
The guide covers radiotherapy equipment including external beam radiotherapy machines (both Cobalt-60 and linear accelerators), brachytherapy devices that apply radiation sources directly to tumours and complementary imaging devices such as conventional or computed tomography (CT) simulators, as well as other tools essential for safe operation and quality control.
WHO has said that the guidance is intended for medical physicists, biomedical and clinical engineers, radiation oncologists, oncologists and anyone else with responsibility for manufacturing, planning, selecting, procuring, regulating, installing or using radiotherapy equipment.
According to WHO, over 50% of cancer patients require radiotherapy as part of cancer care and it is frequently used to treat the most common types, such as breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer. Yet, access to radiotherapy is inadequate, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
May Abdel-Wahab, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Human Health, said that IAEA data shows that around one-third of countries still do not have radiotherapy available, out of which 28 are in Africa.
“Many of them would benefit from increased access to radiotherapy services. The key is tailoring radiation oncology solutions to the situation on the ground, underpinned by appropriate safety infrastructure,” she added.