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Expert: Cancer is second most popular cause of death in Belarus

This week the world marked World Cancer Day. Viktor Kokhnyuk, surgery deputy director of the National Scientific-Practical Center of Oncology and Medical Radiology named after Alexandrov has given an interview to the TV program Week on the CTV.

Every year, cancer is found in approximately 40,000 Belarusians. Is cancer the second most popular terrible sentence after cardiovascular diseases?

Viktor Kokhnyuk:
Every year in Belarus, there appears plus 1,000 patients with malignancy. For example, three years ago, we revealed 42,000 such cases, in 2013 there were 43,000 cases and so on. But more than half of patients are cured. In 2015 there were 50-60 persons cured out of 100. These patients are cured and live long and well, without any complaints. The world has the same percentage. People don’t know about these numbers, they say 7-10% instead of the real 50-60%. This means that the media talk and write little about this.

In our country, cancer is the second most popular cause of death after cardiovascular diseases. In some countries (Canada and others) mortality from cancer ranks first, ahead of cardiovascular issues.

What place in the world do Belarusian doctors occupy? Do foreigners come to Belarus to be treated for malignancies?

Viktor Kokhnyuk:
Yes, quite a lot. And, mostly, of course, they are our neighbors, people from the former Soviet republics (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan), but there are also individual patients from European countries. There are patients from Africa and even Latin America. And, of course, it is of great importance to us. This brings up the image of our Belarusian healthcare system, our Belarusian efforts aiming to combat oncology. In addition, it allows us to earn money in order to, once again, to use them for the acquisition of new equipment, in order to raise the salaries of our employees. This is important and mutually beneficial.

Does domestic pharmaceutical industry produce any medication that helps fight cancer?

Viktor Kokhnyuk:
Undoubtedly, there are a number of drugs for the treatment of oncological diseases. We have conducted clinical trials, and in any case there were no such situations that our Belarusian drugs’ effectiveness is inferior to that of foreign analogues. The price is much lower. And I would like to say that after all it is perfect when an individual approach in the treatment of a patient is used. Nevertheless, there are algorithms for the treatment of malignant tumors, which are approved by the Ministry of Health, which has established a list of manipulations, including surgery, radiation therapy, anticancer drugs that patients get free of charge.

Belarusians who have malignant tumors are treated free of charge, aren’t they?

Viktor Kokhnyuk:

Only for free.

What are the symptoms must cause a person to consult a doctor-oncologist?

Viktor Kokhnyuk:
Each localization of malignancy is characterized by its own symptoms. If people see that this is happening to them, he or she should go to the doctor. However, the world practice is that today even healthy people of older age are regularly invited to pass some tests.

This is the so-called screening of malignant diseases of the upper locations. This is something our center also does. And, in particular, we are working to identify malignant diseases at an early stage. I am talking about cancer of female genitals, breast, colorectal cancer, lung cancer. This is extremely important, because if the disease is detected in its early stages, the cure rate is high - almost 90-95%. Thus the cost of treatment is also minimal.

You have recently got a PET center. What is it?

Viktor Kokhnyuk:
If conventional methods (radiation or ultrasound) do not allow detecting a small tumor (2mm) the PET scanner makes it possible to detect such structures. This determines more quality treatment.

I would like to ask you at end of the conversation about the following. Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie did not have cancer, but supposedly she had predisposition to breast cancer. She had her breast removed and fake breasts were put instead. How do you feel about that?

Viktor Kokhnyuk:
This is a prevention measure. And we all do it. I think about two people weekly undergo this procedure. We do about 5-6 or even more such surgeries in a month.

Expert: Cancer is second most popular cause of death in Belarus