“Every fourth cancer patient dies within a year. Because they stayed at home!”
How the oncology service worked during the pandemic
Even during the most severe “coronavirus” restrictions, the cancer service worked in Tatarstan, the head of the Republican Cancer Clinic, Ilgiz Khidiyatov, told reporters on 30 September. The polyclinic services and the work of hospitals did not stop. “In these circumstances, the government made absolutely correct conclusions that the work of the cancer service cannot be terminated. Our hospital never stopped working. We worked even beyond our capacities — the coronavirus could not bypass us," he said.
The rector of the Kazan State Medical Academy (KSMA), Rustem Khasanov, draws a parallel with Europe in this issue — according to him, cancer departments were almost closed there during the epidemic. “The patients were left by themselves. Everything was subject to the rules of the fight against the pandemic," Khasanov said.
According to Khidiyatov, COVID-19 was diagnosed in approximately one in ten hospitalised patient. At the same time, Khidiyatov does not note that the incidence of cancer patients is higher than among other categories. If Covid-19 was detected, the patient was immediately isolated and, based on the results of the examination, was sent to the hospital or to self-isolation — so that after being cured of the coronavirus, he or she returned to the cancer centre and continued to fight cancer.
Today, the cancer service is “working rhythmically in full”. “Unprecedented infusions into oncology are taking place, and into the material and technical base," Khidiyatov added, “mainly through Healthcare national project.
“The construction is completed, decoration works and equipment installation are finishing in our branch in Naberezhnye Chelny. I think soon we will present it," Ilgiz Khidiyatov informed.
COVID-19 showed the need for medical examinations
However, both Khidiyatov and Khasanov, and the chief oncologist of ministry of healthcare of Tatarstan, Eduard Nagumanov, said: a big problem was created by the pause in prophylactic medical examination during the pandemic.
“When the preventive medical examination was “turned off”, we realised how much it was needed. Previously, scientists said on the pages of the press that it was ineffective, that it did not work. But when it was “turned off”, we realised that it was needed, that there was no alternative. If the cancer is detected at an early stage, the chances of recovery increase by an order of magnitude," Khasanov said.
Khasanov added that the key indicators that evaluate the work of the cancer service have already begun to deteriorate, although they are still being kept in the so-called “green zone”. However, he added: it is not a matter of working on figures, but that cancer in patients is failed to be detected in time.
Eduard Nagumanov explained this more harshly. According to him, now every 33rd resident of Tatarstan is registered with cancer. Every year, more than 16,500 patients with malignancies are identified. However, in the first 8 months of this year, more than a thousand patients who should have cancer simply “did not reach” cancer centres.
Those who have not reached the stage are those people who may not even know that they have the diagnosis. Or suspect something, but do not seek medical help. “They will get into the primary network for urgent indications, when they will be given first aid between life and death. And the effectiveness of treatment — it will be much lower than planned," said Nagumanov.
“So, out of the entire identified pool of patients, one in four die within a year. Why? Because they were staying at home! Because they didn't undergo medical examinations! Because they do not care not only about themselves, but also about their loved ones who are in a difficult situation due to the illness of a loved one. And this situation cannot always be fixed by doctors.
If you have an advanced stage, you “may not have problems', you will have them, and you are going to your death. Patients come and ask: “Why me?" Because he didn't pass the medical examination and screening in time," Nagumanov warned.
“If the pace of medical examinations can not be caught up, Nagumanov gives a very pessimistic forecast: by the end of the year, the number of people with severe forms will certainly increase. “And they will die from these diseases. There will be a surge in one-year lethality," he summed up.
Nagumanov did not give any figures, but, according to him, the proportion of deaths within a year will be more than “every fourth”. While in the framework of medical examination programmes, in 80% of cases, cancer is detected at an early stage. If it is detected in this mode, the patient will be “practically cured” and have a long comfortable life.
Folk remedies do not treat cancer
In the conversation with journalists, oncologists also touched on the topic of “folk remedies” for cancer — it turned out to be very painful. Rustem Khasanov called this entire pool of so-called drugs nothing but obscurantism.
“Of course, I can reason why a person does this, why he listened to such terrible advice. I have seen these people who have been treated with hemlock tincture or other poisons. Where did these tests come from, where did they take place, and who told them? And, as a rule, the treatment is carried out against the background of treatment prescribed by doctors. Hundreds of institutes all over the world, and if this fly agaric or hemlock helped someone, do you think that oncologists would not apply it?" Khasanov said.
Moreover, the use of folk remedies can harm cancer patients, and sometimes even kill them.
“A young woman, she had a small tumor on the kidney, we removed it. She was under supervision. She didn't need any treatment — yet. Her relatives began to give her hemlock tincture. She began to lose weight, turn pale, anemia appeared — she was practically poisoned. They brought her in four months later, it was almost a corpse. We couldn't save her, she died. She was 30 years old, she would have lived for the rest of her life. People live for decades after removing such a tumor.
Nigmatullin added that if fly agaric really helped, the territory of the cancer clinic would be planted with beds of mushrooms and patients would be prescribed what grows on them.