Illustrative photo – On September 14, 2020, people could be screened at Wenceslas Square in Prague as part of a campaign to support the fight against skin melanomas.
Prague – According to Minister of Health Vlastimil Válk (TOP 09), Czechs have one of the widest options for preventive examinations to prevent cancer, which is also covered by health insurance. He said this at today's press conference on the preventive action in the House of Representatives. Examinations are used only by a part of people, for example cervical or colon cancer, but thanks to them it is possible to prevent them even before the tumor develops.
“Every third person will get cancer in their lifetime, so it affects every extended family,” said the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Markéta Pekarová Adamová (TOP 09). Every year, doctors diagnose more than 85,500 people with cancer and around 28,000 die of cancer. Almost 620,000 people live with the experience of cancer treatment.
The most common cancer is prostate cancer with 7,700 new cases in 2020, second is breast cancer with 7,300 cases, third is colon and rectal cancer with almost 7,000 cases and fourth is lung cancer with 6,600 cases.
For all these tumors, people can prevent the development of the tumor itself or catch it at an early stage, which can be well treated, by early examination as part of the so-called screening program. For prostate cancer, according to Válk, the ministry is currently preparing it and plans to launch it next year.
Women over 45 can undergo breast cancer screening once every two years, and about 60 percent of them participate. Since the introduction of the investigation, the death rate from breast tumors has decreased by 30 percent. Lung cancer screening for people over 55 who smoke or have smoked for a long time was launched last year.
“Unfortunately, colorectal cancer screening is still very little used,” added Válek. According to VZP data, only about 27 percent of people who are entitled to it, i.e. over 50 years of age, use it. At the same time, every second doctor finds a polyp during the examination, which can develop into colon or rectal cancer. They can often remove it directly during a colonoscopy.
“If every citizen who can take advantage of it had a colonoscopy once every ten years, we can basically eliminate colorectal cancer to zero,” added Válek. Even the state can save on prevention, colonoscopy examinations cost thousands of crowns, cancer treatment millions.
Cervical and throat cancer is also very preventable, according to Bohuslav Svoboda (ODS), chairman of the House Committee on Health. Women undergo examinations during regular check-ups with a gynecologist, thanks to which the incidence has already decreased. “Carcinoma of the cervix was the most common cancer in women, today it is the third,” he said. In this case too, doctors can remove the already diseased tissue from which the tumor is yet to arise.
“Our only problem is getting patients to be examined,” he added. Only about half of women go to a gynecologist for prevention. This type of cancer, which is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), can also be prevented by vaccination. It is paid for by health insurance companies for thirteen-year-old girls and boys, Válek has previously stated that he would like to extend the option to twelve- and fourteen-year-olds as well. According to Svoboda, about half of children of a given age are vaccinated.
“You won't find such a range of screening programs almost anywhere in the world, and everything is fully paid for,” Válek added, adding that people should use them more. According to him, however, a democratic society cannot force anyone to undergo examinations, even if it is in his interest. “It has such a small toll, everyone is responsible for their own decisions,” he added.
Health insurance companies invite people who are eligible for screenings by letter, but apparently, according to their earlier statements, the campaign has reached its maximum. For those who undergo these examinations, the prevention funds also contribute to other paid health care, such as dental hygiene or massages.
According to Válk, the ministry is preparing additional bonuses for people who pay more attention to their health. “Those who go for screenings will have some benefits in their senior years. For example, they could have a free spa once every two years,” he added.
Members of Parliament can get involved in prevention themselves today. The Voice of Oncology Patients organization and other patient associations are organizing the House of Representatives against cancer event. At the interactive exhibition, for example, on models of breasts or testicles, they can try out how to find a lump as part of a self-examination.