MINSK, 20 October (BelTA) – During the visit to the Alexandrov National Cancer Center of Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko was told that Belarus has built an efficient cancer care delivery system, BelTA has learned.
Aleksandr Lukashenko asked how efficiently cancer services are delivered in Belarus, two decades after the country started building a cancer care delivery system with the involvement of the head of state.
The president was informed that Belarus managed not only to retain the existing system, but also to expand the cancer care delivery system. “We managed to preserve the system that existed in the Soviet Union, and not just preserve, but to significantly improve its physical infrastructure and build up the capacity of the cancer service. This matter is always of interest to our foreign partners, since there is no such centralized cancer service system abroad,” Sergei Polyakov, director of the center, noted.
The system created in Belarus is in many respects unique and is of great interest for foreign healthcare professionals. “We can be a role model for many countries in providing cancer care,” Sergei Polyakov said.
“The system is up and running. This is important for me,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
It was noted that primary care visits declined amidst the pandemic, which affected cancer diagnosis rates. However, this is a global trend.
In general, the quality of cancer care in Belarus is among the best in the world across a number of parameters. There were 150,000 cancer patients in Belarus in 2000. By 2021 their number doubled, while the number of cancer survivors who have been receiving follow-up care for more than five years tripled over this period. The death rate during the first year after cancer was diagnosed halved (down to 42%) and remains at this level, which suggests a decrease in the number of advanced cancer cases.
New technologies and protocols are introduced, which helps significantly increase cancer survival rates and improve the quality of life. Treatment of patients having bladder cancer is a case in point, Sergei Polyakov said. The bladder cancer death rate more than halved, and Belarus is now among top three countries in this indicator, along with Finland and the Republic of Korea. According to Sergei Polyakov, the center has performed 11,000 surgeries since the beginning of the year. For example, 66 surgeries were scheduled for this day alone.
The export of services – provision of cancer care to foreign patients – was also discussed. Cancer services are quite in demand among foreign nationals in Belarus.
In this regard, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that cancer services of the same quality are much more expensive in the West. “‘Great' West with its human rights agenda is obsessed with money. We cannot even comprehend it sometimes. They charge you for every this and that, they rip you off. We do these surgeries no worse than they do,” he said.
The president also wondered what is the likelihood of developing some kind of universal cure for cancer. Sergei Polyakov noted that there are already effective drugs to treat some types of cancer that can prolong lives of even advanced cancer patients for another 5-7 years and help them retain a good quality of life. However, there is no universal cure.
Yet, Presidential Aide Aleksandr Kosinets is confident that such medicines might emerge in the future and the work on them is underway in the world. For example, a drug to treat spinal cord and brain cancer is being tested.
The president also touched upon the topic of vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, the politicization of this issue in the world, and attempts to make big money on this problem. “Healthcare should be an absolutely international domain. You cannot take advantage of people's health [to make money]. Why so many deaths in rich America? Because the healthcare system was destroyed there, healthcare is a market where everyone competes for patients - the richer, the better. Here is the result,” the president emphasized.
The head of state also spoke about problems with combating COVID-19 in the neighboring countries where the centralized healthcare system was not preserved. “Take Latvia – it is a disaster. It is on fire now. Take our dear Ukraine - you see what is going on there, their healthcare system was destroyed,” the Belarusian leader noted.
Belarus decided to retain the centralized healthcare system and the time has proved this decision right. This system helps the country to deal with the challenges associated with the pandemic, to save people. “We benefit from good management, centralization, the vertical structure in a good sense of this word, mutual assistance and Soviet-style competition, not this cut-throat rivalry,” the head of state is convinced.
Speaking about cancer, Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed confidence that Belarusian scientists have the potential to make a breakthrough, which will be appreciated all over the world. “You are doing a great job when it comes to treatment. Yet, it is just as important for me to come up with some breakthrough solutions. We need to create something that will go down in history, and we are ready for this. We need to do something big, something that can save our own people and make the world say: Belarusians have done a great job, they have worked miracles,” the head of state said.
During his visit to the Alexandrov National Cancer Center, the head of state also talked to patients and familiarized himself with the quality of medical care they received. Aleksandr Lukashenko wished them a speedy recovery and emphasized the importance of the right attitude and positive thinking. “Those who live a healthy lifestyle and fight for their lives will definitely survive,” the Belarusian leader is sure.
There were foreign nationals among the patients. A patient from Odessa said: “I am so glad that I came to your country for treatment, I am grateful to my doctor.”
The Alexandrov National Cancer Center is the country's biggest medical, diagnostic, research and educational facility. The center has 39 treatment and diagnostic departments, a department of extra-budgetary activities and a research center consisting of 10 laboratories. The center has 790 beds, including 12 intensive care beds and 34 inpatient treatment beds.
In 2017 the center inaugurated a new polyclinic for 800 visits a day. This polyclinic has a 25-bed outpatient chemotherapy department and a 9-bed minimally invasive surgery department.
Even amidst the pandemic, the number of visits to the polyclinic remains practically unchanged. In the first half of 2021, the number of visits dropped by only 2% year-on-year.
As for cancer statistics, according to preliminary data from the Belarusian Cancer Registry, in the first half of 2021, the number of new cancer cases shrank by 334 year-on-year: 19,678 versus 20,012. The downward trend is observed in Brest Oblast, Minsk Oblast and the city of Minsk, while in Vitebsk Oblast, Gomel Oblast, Grodno Oblast and Mogilev Oblast there was a slight increase in the number of new cases.
All in all, about 325,000 cancer patients are registered in Belarus, 55% of them have been in the register for five or more years.