Fighting cancer is gov't priority, says health minister

Photo /Vijesti/2019/02 Veljača/4 veljače/HN20190204021735.jpg

Fighting cancer is the government's priority this year, which is why the adoption of a national cancer plan was included in the government's reform plan in order to raise public awareness of cancer as a big public health problem and to improve prevention, check-up rates, diagnostics and therapy, Health Minister Milan Kujundtic said on Monday on the occasion of World Cancer Day.

About 23,000 people are diagnosed with and about 11,000 die of cancer in Croatia every year.

Number of cancer deaths will rise from 18 to 30 million annually

"Today is World Cancer Day which the whole world observes and it's also the beginning of Croatian Cancer Week. Unfortunately, it is estimated that the number of cancer deaths in the world will rise from 18 million to 30 million annually over the next 20 years. In Croatia, about 23,000 people are diagnosed with cancer annually and a similar rise as in the world is predicted," Kujundzic told a press conference.

He said Croatia followed world trends in cancer treatment when it comes to new medication and that last year saw a significant rise in the procurement of diagnostic equipment.

In terms of risk factors and awareness, Croatia is ranked among the worst, while in terms of screening, diagnostics and therapy, it is in the top third of developed countries. Everything should be done to make citizens go to preventive check-ups and screenings as early detection and timely diagnosis make the disease curable.

Increasing screening rates would save many lives

"We are especially poor when it comes to smoking and it's well-known that one in four tumours is linked to smoking", said the minister.

There are three screening programmes in Croatia - for breast, cervical and colon cancer. Kujundzic said an increase in breast cancer screening rates from the current 60 to 80% would save 3,000 lives in Croatia annually.

According to Croatian Institute of Public Health data (HZJZ), a fifth cycle of inviting women aged 50-59 to mammogram check-ups is under way as part of the National Breast Cancer Early Detection Programme. The turnout is 60%.

The turnout to the early detection of colon cancer, to which people aged 50-74 are invited, is only 21%, while a programme for the early detection of cervical cancer is undergoing reorganisation.

Low-dose CT scanning for lung cancer is expected to begin soon, it was announced.

The head of the HZJZ Cancer Registry, Mario Sekorija, said the number of people with malignancies was constantly rising, mostly due to higher life expectancy and the increasingly high number of elderly people.

Croatia has 170,000 former cancer patients

In Croatia, there are 170,000 people who had cancer at one point in their lives.

Text and photo: Hina