Fewer than a quarter of the 15 million people diagnosed with cancer worldwide this year have access to safe and proper surgery, said researchers.
Surgery is the mainstay of cancer control or cure and is required in 80 percent of cases, but over three quarters of patients cannot get it where they live, according to a study published in The Lancet Oncology
People in low-income countries like Zambia and Mongolia fare the worst, with only five percent of patients receiving basic cancer surgery.
"Surgical services for cancer... are allocated few resources. As a result, access to safe, affordable cancer surgical services is dismal," said Richard Sullivan, who heads the cancer policy institute at King's College London.
The authors call for "radical" action to create high-quality training programs that will equip more doctors and specialists to perform basic cancer surgery, they said in a statement.
In a separate study, researchers found that investing $97-184 billion (87-165 billion euros) in life-saving radiotherapy could save millions of lives.