EU grants contribute to training medical personnel and obtaining the necessary equipment for early breast cancer detection.
By Klaudija Lutovska fort Southeast European Time in Skopje -- 23/10/12
Early screening is essential in sucessfully treating breast cancer, doctors say. [Klaudija Lutovska/SETimes]
In an effort to decrease breast cancer deaths, regional health ministries are training medical personnel for early detection and acquiring the latest equipment to bring the Balkan countries up to the highest standards of preventative healthcare.
Doctors say the key to defeating breast cancer is early detection.
"Early detection provides dramatically better results not only in treating but also in completely curing patients. It also provides savings for the healthcare budget because treatments are cheaper," Elizabeta Chipurovska, a doctor at the Clinical Centre in Bitola, told SETimes.
"In 90 percent of cases when cancer is detected early, the lifespan of patients continues for more than five years. Early detection directly affects the number of deaths," she said.
As part of the fight against cancer, Macedonia will send 20 radiologists and radiology technicians to attend an EU-funded professional development training in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where they will acquire cutting-edge knowledge on breast cancer screening.
The ministry of health also plans to open oncology centers in Skopje, Bitola and Shtip after their training ends in April 2013.
"The training is based on activities for early detection of cancer, with the ultimate aim to [provide] fully organized breast cancer screening for the whole territory of the Republic of Macedonia," Nikola Todorov, Macedonia's health minister, told SETimes.
There are 700 new cases registered annually in Macedonia, increasingly including young women.
Similarly, Serbia received an EU grant last year to implement a national programme for early detection of cancer, including cervical and colon cancer.
About 4,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually in Serbia and 1,600 die of the disease.
The project seeks to ensure Serbia has the technological capacity as well as trained personnel to effectively detect cancer early on.
The health ministry will establish 100 mammography centres, 15 cito-screening and colonoscopy centres and will train and certify 360 medical personnel.
"After completing this project, our health system will be fully capable of performing screening, beginning in 2013," Zoran Stankovic, minister of health of Serbia, said.
Experts expect the screening to cover 70 to 90 percent of the target population, or about 20 to 30 percent of the total population.
Croatia leads the efforts in the region and implemented a screening programme for early detection in 2006 amid reports that every 11th woman is afflicted with breast cancer.
Nearly 1,000 women died of breast cancer last year, the fifth most common cause of death in the country.
The programme has been a success; nearly 60 percent of the women have participated in it and medical personnel detected early forms of cancer in 1,600 women last year.
Elsewhere, Montenegro is creating an internal protocol for treating breast cancer and a cancer registry.
Last year, Montenegro adopted a national cancer control programme under which it has appealed for political and media support to raise breast cancer awareness.
"Even the most qualified and controlled screening programs cannot have success without strong political, financial and media support. Only jointly we can successfully implement this programme," Jadranka Lakicevic, a doctor in Podgorica, said.
"I regret that for many women screening is still not a habit. I lost my mother to cancer last year. What the Macedonian government is doing is of paramount importance for our health and continued existence," Natasha Spirovska, 27, resident of Bitola, told SETimes.