Cancer equality in Slovenia at high level, more research needed

Ljubljana, 4 February - The latest report from the European Commission and the OECD on cancer inequality, released on the occasion of World Cancer Day, notes that the equality of care for cancer patients in Slovenia is at a high level, but experts warn that even more cancer research is needed.

Ribbons symbolising fights against cancer.
Photo: a screen shot

According to data from the Slovenian Cancer Registry at the Ljubljana Oncology Institute, more than 16,000 people are newly diagnosed with cancer every year in Slovenia, and more than 6,500 of cancer patients die on an annual basis.

The institute and the Health Ministry thus said on the occasion of World Cancer Day, marked on 4 February, that the impact of socio-economic inequalities on the incidence and outcome of cancer in Slovenia was still great.

The latest report from the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that every individual in Slovenia has access to oncological care and that the equality of care for cancer patients is high.

It notes that the expenses of oncological care in the country is fully covered by compulsory health insurance and is therefore accessible to more than 99% of the population.

In terms of the number of new cancer cases and mortality, Slovenia is in the bottom half among the EU member states, while the patient survival rate has increased above the average in the last ten years, by more than 10%.

While experts say that this should also be attributed to the objectives and measures of the national cancer control programme, the report notes that in Slovenia needs to devote more effort to primary prevention.

Slovenia is one of the few EU countries that has all three cancer screening programmes in place - Zora for cervix cancer, Dora for breast cancer and Svit for colorectal cancer.

The most frequent cancers in the developed world and Slovenia (skin, lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers) account for 60% of all cancers discovered. The biggest burden for the state is lung cancer.

The EU and OECD report says that Slovenia should devote more attention to prevention. "We are aware that with prevention programmes at the primary level almost half of all cancers in Slovenia could be prevented. This is why the [Health] Ministry has increased prevention activities, especially those that were perhaps not fully implemented during the Covid-19 epidemic.

"In 2022 we have secured funds for encouraging preventive projects at the primary level implemented by various NGOs," said the coordinator of the 2022-2026 national cancer management programme, Sanja Tomšič from the Ljubljana Oncology Institute.

In Slovenia, the lack of staff and equipment are the biggest problems, institutions are especially need devices for diagnostic images. The Oncology Institute plans to purchase of a much needed additional PET-CT device, the officials said.

Tanja Čufer of the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine sees cancer research as a major problem in Slovenia, noting that more should be invested in research in the fields of prevention, surgery, radiotherapy and multi-disciplinary treatment.

© STA, 2023