Cancer care at times of crisis and war: The Syrian example

Eman Sahloul, Riad Salem, Wessam Alrez, Tayseer Alkarim, Ammar Sukari, Wasim Maziak, M. Bassel Atassi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Purpose As Syria enters its fifth year of conflict, the number of civilians killed and injured continues to rise sharply. Along with this conflict comes the rapid decline of medical care, specifically cancer care. To determine physician and equipment availability, cancer screening and management, and possible solutions relative to various major cities, a survey was distributed to physicians inside Syria through the help of the humanitarian organization Syrian American Medical Society. Methods Online surveys were distributed to both certified oncologists who work in cancer clinics and general physicians who work in rural and mobile clinics inside Syria. Variables assessed were physician specialty, location, population, cost, regional situation (besieged versus government controlled), and resource availability and access. Results were stratified by location and physician specialty. Results Survey results revealed a large shortage of specialized physicians and inhibited accessibility to screening and management options in besieged areas compared with government-controlled regions. Physicians within both government-controlled and besieged cities reported limited or no targeted agents, radiation therapy, clinical trials, bone marrow transplantation, positron emission tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging, and genetic testing. Conclusion The Syrian civil war has resulted in suboptimal oncology care in the majority of the region. In consideration of specific deficiencies in cancer care, we recommend several solutions that may better the level of care in Syria: patient education on medical documentation and self-examination; online consultation; and cheap, effective screening methods. The implementation of these recommendations may change the course of cancer care in a country that has deteriorated into the worst humanitarian crisis of the century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-345
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Global Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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