Understanding and Combatting Cancer in BCS

By: International Community Foundation (ICF)

What causes cancer? How do we improve our chances of catching it early and treating it successfully? These are questions that every country is trying to answer. Especially in Mexico where malignant tumors are the third leading cause of death, resulting over 84,000 deaths in 2017.

The International Community Foundation (ICF) has been working to improve cancer treatment in Baja California Sur (BCS) for nearly a decade. In 2007, ICF invited representatives from the St. Jude International Outreach Program to explore the development and implementation of a much-needed Pediatric Oncology ward at the public hospital in La Paz. Since that initial visit, a partnership was formed with St. Jude, Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, UCSD, and several local organizations, and ICF has granted approximately $200,000 to support staff training and needed resources to provide the highest quality of care and services for these young patients and their families.

In recent years, local partner organizations in BCS have shared their alarm over official statistics and anecdotal evidence of extremely high cancer rates in the state. But as they dug deeper, they realized what was missing – data.

After a few years of research and planning, ICF and local partners, including La Paz-based organization Center for Renewable Energy and Environmental Quality (CERCA) and fellow-funder Los Cabos Children’s Foundation, launched a population-based cancer registry, in order to collect demographic, diagnostic, and treatment information.

On January 14, 2019, the BCS Cancer Registry, A.C., now an official Mexican nonprofit organization, signed a collaborative agreement with the state’s Secretary of Health, beginning a formal relationship to ensure consistent access to medical records and the ability to inform public health activities and policy.

With high quality data on the size and nature of the cancer problem in the state, medical officials and policymakers can take needed actions to improve early detection and treatment, increase prevention efforts, and study possible causes of cancer in the region.

ICF is proud of its role as financial supporter, technical advisor, and thought partner for this important new effort and we look forward to learning more about how to combat cancer in Baja California Sur. To learn more or to support this work directly, contact Alana Ortez, Senior Health Program Officer: alana@icfdn.org.