If the number of cancer cases among women rises in the country, functionaries will be held accountable. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko made the relevant statement at a government conference held on 23 May to discuss the most pressing healthcare issues, BelTA has learned.
A pro forma approach to periodic health examinations of the population was one of the serious shortcomings detected in the Belarusian healthcare system by a dedicated workgroup. Head Physician of the Republican Clinical Medical Center Irina Abelskaya was in charge of the team. She said people do not get summoned to local clinics for polling and questionnaire surveys. Only those, who come to the clinics for various reasons on their own, undergo the periodic health examinations. The doctor pointed out: “An overwhelming majority come to clinics when they fall ill. And there they undergo a periodic health examination in response to the disease. It is necessary to do this work [periodic health examination] but an analysis and explanation of how it should be done are needed at the local level as well as computerized workstations. Otherwise, the efforts will be reduced to a pro forma approach once again.”
“And as a result, as it has been just said, every fifth death is caused by cancer within a year,” the president clarified.
Irina Abelskaya explained that annual mortality accounts for about 20%. In other words, if 100 people with cancer are detected for the first time within a year, then about 20% of them die within the first year because the disease was detected at a late stage.
In turn, Grodno Oblast Governor Vladimir Karanik, who worked as an oncologist and ran the Minsk city cancer center for a long time in the past, remarked that the COVID-19 pandemic had made a negative contribution to the situation around early detection of oncological diseases. People came to medics due to other reasons more infrequently. As a result, the detection rate of oncological diseases dropped by 14% in comparison with pre-pandemic levels. “Pent-up demand is our task for the next 1-2 years. In other words, we need to provide early detection service to these patients as fast as possible. They don't complain about anything now and they don't go to see doctors. It is necessary to find and detect [cancer] before it progresses to later stages,” Vladimir Karanik said.
The head of state asked Vladimir Karanik: “Is it normal when a woman dies of breast cancer or cervical cancer? We can treat it and can save people. I know many people. I had to get to know these things, treat such people, who have lived for 8-9 years already.”
Vladimir Karanik said: “As far as cervical cancer is concerned, I absolutely agree with you, it is not normal. At present all the opportunities are available for early detection. As for breast cancer, genetic predisposition is estimated at 5-7%. It is a defect of antitumor protection. Unfortunately, no country can affect this percentage. As a rule, it results in early aggressive cancer among young women and this kind of cancer is not easy to treat.”
“Are you trying to tell me that the level of breast cancer mortality in Belarus is better than the rest of the world's?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered.
Vladimir Karanik answered: “It is as good as that in many parameters. We have to understand that the figure is often achieved thanks to very expensive treatment.”
“Not only the [healthcare] minister but you too will answer with your head for women's diseases. Don't paint rosy pictures for me here. We are responsible for women,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.