“Cancer doesn’t necessarily mean death, so we have to stop whispering about it. It’s not the right approach for individuals or society if we want to fight this disease,” explains LTV News Chief Editor Guntis Bojārs.
The “Diagnosis - cancer” project was launched online at LSM.LV on October 21st and will continue over the next three weeks when LSM.LV and LTV will publish several stories, cover them on the news and deliver special broadcasts, searching for solutions to the problems highlighted by the findings of specially commissioned research. Although every story is different, there are three topics present in all of the stories, and they will be the main focus of the campaign: personal responsibility, doctor competence and patient care standards.
Society must place more importance on personal responsibility in regards to maintaining health. This applies to lifestyle, diet, illness and especially cancer prevention. For example, in Latvia 500 women die each year of breast cancer, but only 46% of women in the high-risk group respond to invitations to undergo a free mammogram.
Catching cancer in its early stages is vital for improving chances of survival. On average 32% of cancer patients die within a year of their diagnosis. Diagnostics, and especially operations, cannot be left only in the hands of regular doctors and specialists who know the basics about cancer, but lack practical experience.
In 2016 a "green corridor" scheme was created in Latvia to help catch early-stage cancer. It helps people who are diagnosed with cancer for the first time to gain access to an examination or specialist within 10 days. While this is a well-meaning initiative, it is still plagued with many problems such as lack of a standardized approach to diagnosis and treatment, as well as quality controls for examinations and treatment, among others.
Patient Care Standards
“Patient complaints and our research shows that doctors' attitudes towards patients can frequently be careless, arrogant or even cynical. Patients also often truly don’t understand their treatment process or ailment. The international standard doesn’t work in Latvia,” admits LTV Journalist Odita Krenberga.
Low wages and an unmanageable number of patients are just a few of the most commonly mentioned issues faced by medical staff in Latvia, but there is a lot to be learned from international best practice examples. If there is a will, the culture can be changed.
The “Diagnosis - cancer” project consists of more than 200 stories from cancer patients and their relatives. Stories were gathered this year and Latvian Public Media would like to thank everyone who conquered their tears and fears to share their stories. The journalistic team spent several months analyzing statistics, exploring the system in Latvia, and speaking to oncologists, as well as several NGOs to draw a variety of conclusions.
While LSM's English-language service will not be translating all the relevant pieces, you can explore the Latvian-language content in this dedicated section of the LSM website.