Late detection and poor provision of healthcare facilities: Alikhan Smailov speaks about cancer treatment problems

It is planned to strengthen measures on rendering oncological assistance to the population in Kazakhstan. The relevant issue was considered at the Government session chaired by the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Alikhan Smailov.

The Minister of Healthcare Azhar Giniyat reported that more than 205 thousand cancer patients are under active surveillance in the country, annually more than 37 thousand new cases are revealed, more than 13 thousand people die of cancer. According to the results of work in 2022 the Kostanay, Akmola, Aktobe and Mangistau regions are classified as unfavorable regions.

A draft Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan for the period 2023-2025 has been drawn up to further improve medical care for cancer. It plans to expand cancer screening programs, introduce vaccination against the human papilloma virus, renovate cancer centers in all regions where it is required, and modernize their diagnostic equipment.

In addition, new cancer centers are expected to be built in Almaty, Atyrau, Almaty, Ulytau, Zhetysu, and Aktobe regions, and a National Research Center with proton therapy will be opened in Astana.

Also, measures are envisioned to improve access to the latest antitumor drugs, expand the network of mobile teams for cancer patients, develop the relevant areas of science and human resources in general.

Mukhtar Tuleutayev, the chief oncologist of Astana, the holder of "Yenbek Yeri" Kazakstan rank, also made suggestions at the meeting.

The Prime Minister stressed that even with the availability of the most modern medical technologies the treatment of oncological diseases is still a serious challenge for the health care system around the world. Thus, in Kazakhstan annually more than 37 thousand new cases of cancer are identified. At the same time, despite the fact that the mortality rate in 20 years has decreased by 33%, cancer kills more than 13,000 people annually.

Alikhan Smailov added that more than half of patients with cancer are quite young people of working age.

"The main reason for such indicators is late detection of the disease. It is possible to have the latest equipment and medicines, modern hospitals, but we need highly qualified specialists who can detect the disease in its earliest stages. It is also necessary to regularly carry out preventive work with the population," Prime Minister said.

Head of the Government drew attention to the need to take systematic measures to improve the quality and accessibility of health care in the regions. This will reduce the imbalance in the level of medical care between urban and rural populations, regions and the capital city.

"This is exactly what the people of Kazakhstan complain about: late diagnosis, poor provision of medical institutions in the field, lack of medical staff and medicines. All of this leads to a high mortality rate from cancer," Alikhan Smailov pointed out.

For example, he said, very low detection and high mortality rates are registered in Akmola, East Kazakhstan, North Kazakhstan, Pavlodar and Kostanay regions.

"These are very serious problems which need to be solved systematically. It is necessary to restore people's confidence in domestic medicine, the need for regular check-ups and quality treatment. To do so we are building new cancer clinics, procuring equipment and drugs, and introducing modern methods of treatment. The new Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan is also aimed at this," Prime Minister said.

As Head of the Government noted, today less than 20% of the citizens are covered by screening programmes, which is a very low figure. In this regard, the Ministry of Healthcare has been instructed to expand the target groups and preventive screening programs, especially for cancer.

"It is necessary to convince people to be more attentive to their health, to undergo regular appropriate examinations. For this purpose, the Ministries of Health and Information together with the akimats need to carry out extensive information work," he stressed.

In addition, Alikhan Smailov noted the need to develop more effective diagnostic measures to detect malignant tumors at early stages. According to him, world experience should be taken into account in this direction, and leading Kazakh scientists and experts from international organizations should be involved.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister added that in connection with the opening of the National Research Cancer Center with proton therapy next year in the capital it is necessary to work out the issues of providing it with highly qualified specialists. In particular, to establish cooperation with major world cancer centers for consultations, exchange of experience and advanced training of domestic doctors.

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