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#Time4Change: Poland

Published on 21 March 2018 back to previous

Everyday 33 people die because of colorectal cancer in Poland. In 2017 the annual morbidity rate of colorectal cancer was 19,000 cases and it is projected to rise to 27,000 by 2030.

The key issues in Poland are: late diagnosis of colorectal cancer, too few colonoscopies performed in Poland, lack of money in the Polish healthcare system and low awareness among society that colorectal cancer is fully preventable and curable when diagnosed early.

There are some positives – whereas the five-year survivor rate in Poland was below 25% in the 1990s, that figure is now over 45%. However, that figure is still below many other countries in Europe. Over the past year, thanks to MoH’s reimbursement decisions, patients with mCRC can be treated in 1st and 2nd line according to ESMO guidelines. Unfortunately, the 3rd line is limited and 4th line treatment is not accessible.

Focus on early detection

A “Strategic Cancer Plan 2015 – 2024” is in place, which focuses on early diagnosis for colorectal cancer. There is national screening programme in Poland: opportunistic with colonoscopy as primary screening method and population based with invitations for colonoscopy. Although the overall number of colonoscopies has risen considerably in recent years, the response rate to screening invitations is a very low 17%.

“We need to convince people that a colonoscopy can save lives by detection of polyps and their removal and that when colorectal cancer is diagnosed early, it can be fully curable,” said Błażej Rawicki, EuropaColon Poland President. “Another challenge is that only 20% of colonoscopies are done under sedation and the Ministry of Health needs to reimburse many more of them. We also need to allow patients to pay for sedation out of their own pocket when they are willing to do so.”

Other priorities in Poland include the need for more funding for medicines for later stage colorectal cancer, better access to molecular and genetic tests for targeted therapies, and implementation of Colorectal Cancer Units for better organization and result of the treatment.

Primary prevention

To change the situation in Poland, it is also important not to forget about primary prevention and start to treat it much more seriously and systematically.

“Without major changes in our everyday habits we cannot expect lower morbidity,” said Rawicki. “We have to educate about eating healthier, avoiding obesity, being more active, stopping smoking and living healthier life in general. We plan to run various projects such as awareness campaigns and educational meetings in order to encourage the Poles to become a healthier society”.

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