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Cancer patients in Turkey’s earthquake zone left in limbo

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Lack of sufficient medical services and follow-up care in Turkey’s earthquake zone have left cancer patients uncertain about the future of their treatment, according to a top oncologist.

Turkish Society Of Medical Oncology (TTOD) executive board member Ali Murat Sedef told the Haber Türk daily in an interview that the devastation caused by the two powerful earthquakes that hit Turkey’s south and southeast on Feb. 6 has made life much more difficult for cancer patients in the region.

He said the exact number of people requiring treatment for cancer is not yet known but that there were 4,000 patients in Hatay and Kahramanmaraş provinces alone before the disaster.

Sedef said it is not known how many of those patients died in the earthquakes or where they might be living now.

He said while some patients moved to other provinces to be able to receive care, most who stay in the region are unable to have their regular screenings or follow-ups.

He said lack of treatment leads to spread of the cancer to other body parts in some patients, while the elderly just wait to die, thinking that it will no longer be possible for them to resume treatment under the dire conditions caused by the earthquakes.

The earthquakes, which claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people in Turkey, has also left more than 1.5 million people homeless.

Most earthquake victims live in tents or container housing and have problems accessing potable water as well as toilets and showers, a situation that can lead to fatal consequences for vulnerable cancer patients.

The makeshift tent used by cancer patient Şehmus Kurt in Gaziantep.

Turkish media outlets reported last week that a cancer patient named Şehmus Kurt, 58, in Gaziantep province died from an infection he contracted in a makeshift tent.

Kurt’s family was reportedly unable to move to a container despite requesting one, and it was too late when they were finally given a tent.

Kurt, who was suffering from lung cancer, died on March 14.

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