Cancer and the TRNC Ministry of Health Statement

In response to the letter published in the press on the statistics of the Ministry of Health published on the 6th of February, a press release was deemed appropriate as a Ministry.

Due to the World Cancer Day on 4th February, a statement was made in a newspaper on 6th February.  A section of the cancer statistics report published by the Ministry of Health in the relevant article is defined as populism and scandal.

As we all know, cancer, which is the disease of our century, takes millions of lives worldwide every year. In a sense, it is the duty of the press to raise awareness of states and individuals about this disease and to remind them that they have responsibilities. The aim of the article was probably to highlight Cancer Disease and shed light on what the government should do about it. However, issuing the right news should be the most important goal.

It is an unfortunate fact to record the annual cancer incidence in our country as 549 per hundred thousand, in the newspaper, without mentioning the results made in this study and without mentioning the comparisons made with other neighbours and world countries.

The extent of cancer disease in our country has always been an issue of concern. It is true that the Ministry of Health made a survey to the KADEM research company in 2011. However, with such questionnaires, it was found that scientifically correct and reliable results could not be achieved and it would not be enough to compare our situation with the world.

It has been understood that a structure in the incidence of cancer in the country, which will allow the monitoring of what is happening, that has continuity and validity at the level of international standards, should be established within our Ministry. For this reason, our Ministry established the Cancer Registration Project in 2013 with the Eastern Mediterranean University Faculty of Medicine and the project was implemented with the contributions of the Turkish Embassy.

In project scope;

1- Cancer Monitoring and Evaluation and Training Center (KIDEM) was established

(It operates on two important topics. One of them is Cancer Registry and the other is Cancer Screenings).

2-With the Cancer Disease Notification Law, cancer reporting is included in the mandatory disease scope (the law was prepared and launched on 22 October 2018).

3- Our Ministry simultaneously with law studies, with the Turkey Cancer Agency to work in this field has conducted training activities for individuals.

4-After the enactment of the law, the first five-year (2012-2016) cancer statistics report of TRNC was prepared and shared with the whole society during the Cancer Week in 2019, and also posted on the Ministry’s website.

The standards and methodology of the International Association of Cancer Registers (IACR) of the World Health Organisation were used in the preparation of these statistics. Thus, we had the chance to compare our situation with other countries of the world. While collecting the data, as will be seen in the TRNC statistical report, the data was collected from many sources by an active recording method.

In this report, the incidence of cancer in the country by region, age groups, gender, the most common cancers in women and men, at what stage cancers are diagnosed according to the types of cancer, how many changes have occurred in a hundred thousand people every year. We shared the facts with the community of the people diagnosed with cancer.  We compared our country with other countries.

We also shared our 2012 Cancer Statistics report with world cancer recorders at the IACR meeting held in Utrecht, Netherlands in 2017.

All these studies have been carried on without interruption by the Ministers of Health, who have been in office from 2013 to the present day. During the period of our Ministry, recording has not ceased, currently cancer data for 2017 is actively collected to ensure continuity. The institutions that are obliged to make notifications create the notification files and our Ministry submits their files to cancer registry officers. While conducting these studies, the Law on Privacy of Personal Data is strictly followed and data from institutions is collected through active recording.

While this is the case, it is an unfortunate fact to explain the annual cancer incidence in our country as 549 per hundred thousand, in a newspaper, without mentioning the results of this study and without mentioning the comparisons made with other neighbours and world countries.

In our Cancer Statistics covering the years 2012-2016, our incidence rates were found as 178.2 per hundred thousand for women and 177 for men. The figures given by the Medical Association are also compatible with this rate of development. (Note; When starting cancer registration, it should always be five years previous to the present, to show how the current data is compared to the past.)

In the 5-year report, the phrase “we now know our numerical distributions and concerns turned out to be unfounded”  from these statistics it shows that we do not have a cancer rate higher than other countries in the world. There is no cancer in our country that we are not aware of or should ignore.  On the contrary, the goal of cancer registry sheds light on the work to be done about all cancers and the precautions to be taken with scientific data.

Cancer data related to Southern Cyprus can be followed from the CANCER TODAY data of the World Health Organisation IARC (International Cancer Research Organisation). Here, all countries have cancer-related data. When it is examined, it will be seen that there is no different situation in the South from the North.

While this is the case, it is a very unfortunate and unrealistic statement to mention that all the doctors working in Cancer registry, undertaking the treatment of Cancer Patients and contributing with the utmost devotion to the collection of statistical information have forgotten the Hippocratic Oath, and that the past ministers have not done any work.

Much has been achieved in our country in terms of cancer patients’ access to treatment and the use of current treatments. But of course there are still things to do. In this sense, many issues such as raising awareness about the preventable causes of cancer, expanding screenings to a wider catchment of the society, establishing IDEM staff, increasing the life quality of patients and increasing the life span of patients, and calculating mortality rates are among the goals of our Ministry.

While writing about this subject, which is very sensitive to the society, conducting a serious research, presenting the right information to the public, talking about the content of statistics, and making constructive suggestions, if any, are the issues that determine the value of the articles in the press.

Source: Ministry of Health
Translated from Turkish