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Advances in cancer screening, treatment increase survival rate

Update: December, 04/2015 - 00:00
A health worker examines breast for a woman at Bach Mai General Hospital. Advances in cancer screening and treatment in Viet Nam have increased the survival rate and reduced side effects, improving the quality of life for patients with cancer. — Photo

HCM CITY (VNS) — Advances in cancer screening and treatment in Viet Nam have increased the survival rate and reduced side effects, improving the quality of life for patients with cancer, according to experts speaking at a conference held in HCM City on December 3.

At the annual two-day conference on cancer prevention held in HCM City, Professor Nguyen Chan Hung, chairman of Viet Nam Cancer Association, said that advances in molecular biology had led to new medicine that is more effective for cancer, including breast and lung cancer.

In addition, surgeries now leave fewer after effects. Aesthetic concerns are also more easily addressed, such as skin-sparing mastectomies.

For some women considering immediate reconstruction, a skin-sparing mastectomy can be done, according to the American Cancer Society.

In this procedure, most of the skin over the breast (other than the nipple and areola) is left intact. This works for a simple mastectomy as well. The amount of breast tissue removed is the same as with a simple mastectomy.

Asso. Prof Tran Van Thiep of HCM City Oncology Hospital said that he and his colleagues had performed skin-sparing mastectomies and breast reconstruction for last 10 years.

These techniques have helped patients with breast cancer feel more confident after treatment, Thiep said.

Also speaking at the conference, Dr Nguyen Trieu Vu of Thu Duc District Hospital said he had performed lymph node transplantation as relief therapy for lymphedema, which is an uncomfortable and painful swelling in the arms caused after surgery for breast cancer.

Dr Le Phuoc Dam at Cho Ray Hospital said he had performed autologous stem cell transplantation for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer starting in lymphocytes cells that are part of the body's immune system.

Hung noted that the same therapies could not be used for all cancers or stages of cancer.

Personalized medicine should be applied to each patient, he said, adding that medicine should also be given according to the tumour size.

Increase in cases

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Xuyen said the number of cancer incidences had increased rapidly in the country.

In 2012 Viet Nam had nearly 125,000 people diagnosed with cancer. In the same year, 94,000 people died from cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The HCM City Oncology Hospital has examined and treated more than 100,000 patients with cancer this year. Seventy per cent of the patients were from the city and southern provinces.

Cervix and breast cancer are the most common cancers among Vietnamese women, while lung, liver and large intestine cancers are the most common among men.

This is a large challenge for the health sector and a burden for the entire society, Xuyen said.

A network of health facilities for cancer treatment has been set up throughout the country, she added.

Under the national strategy on cancer prevention by 2020, Viet Nam will aim to strengthen screening to discover cancer in the earliest stages and reduce 10-15 per cent of cases diagnosed at late stages.

Communication efforts will be made among the public to raise awareness of early screening, with the aim of having 70 per cent of adults in the country aware of the necessity of screening by 2020. — VNS

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