Every year some 5,000 of the over 5 million women in the Czech Republic are diagnosed with breast cancer; for at least thirty percent of them the diagnosis comes too late. The second most common form of cancer in women is cervical cancer, with over 1,000 new cases annually. The Czech League Against Cancer has made this week Week Against Cancer - it's aiming to inform women of the importance of both prevention and early detection.
Dita Asiedu spoke to the League's chairman Dr. Zdenek Dienstbier about the situation in the Czech Republic and how a new form of treatment is expected to significantly reduce the number of cervical cancer cases:
"We feel that the information about cancer prevention is insufficient in our country. Some 60 percent of the risk factors are smoking, unhealthy nutrition, and the lack of movement. All of these are controlled by individual will."
A group of breast cancer patients have been protesting that the level of treatment differs depending on where they go...
"Of course there are differences and that is why the Czech Oncology Society would like to concentrate all these cancer cases in special centres because that is where you can get the best diagnoses and treatment. This is currently being discussed because in this country, the Health Minister changes practically within months and so the situation is unstable."
In the Czech Republic, cancer screening tests are free for women between 45-69 years...
"Yes, the mammary screenings are covered by the health insurance companies but screenings of the cervix are not yet. According to our information, only some 30 percent of women use the opportunity and have the mammary screenings done. There are also differences between the regions. The highest number is in southern Moravia and the lowest number of tests are done in the Karlovy Vary region [western Bohemia]. The doctors are also responsible for this because they should inform the general public about the tests more intensively."
You've also mentioned cervical cancer, which is the second most common type of cancer. Why?
"It is because women do not take enough care of themselves and probably also because sexual promiscuity is quite high here in the Czech Republic. Now we know about the existence of the Human Papilloma Virus [HPV], which is one of the risk factors. But the future is very optimistic because I'm sure that we will introduce the vaccinations against this virus next year."
With this Week Against Cancer, how many women do you think you reach?
"The programme is mainly oriented towards the middle-aged and older generations. It is important to speak to this group of women because they have to go through all these screenings and they can also educate the children in their families."
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