HAVANA._ Cuba is in the process of introducing the required technology to integrate five new cancer diagnostic and treatment innovations into the national public health system that will have a significant social impact on the population.

Cancer is the primary cause of death in Cuba and in order to address this issue, to reduce mortality, to improve the life quality of patients and to convert the disease to a chronic condition, the Ministry of Public Health is implementing an Integrated Cancer Control Program.

Cuba is in the process of introducing the required technology to integrate five new cancer diagnostic and treatment innovations into the national public health system that will have a significant social impact on the population.The program guarantees universal access to all levels of health care, from the local family doctor’s consulting room to the poly-clinic and hospital, with primary actions focusing on prevention, early diagnosis, timely treatment, rehabilitation and care for sufferers backed-up by a primary health care system that facilitates the early detection of health problems by doctors.

On a different front, Cuban researchers have made significant progress in their search for new cancer treatments and instruments to improve disease diagnosis and prevention. The island’s scientists have, over recent years, developed natural medicine therapeutic vaccines against cancer.

Mayka Guerrero, Technology Introduction director at the Center for Medical and Surgical Research (CIMEQ for its Spanish initials) told The Havana Reporter during a scientific event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Nuclear Energy and Advanced Technologies Agency that Cuba is making an important effort regarding resources to drive technological developments for accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment of cancer.

Among such new technologies Guerrero mentioned a radioactive isotope cyclotron or particle accelerator device used for positron emission (PET-CT technology) in tomography chambers to facilitate the visualization of metabolic tumor images.

Cuba is in the process of introducing the required technology to integrate five new cancer diagnostic and treatment innovations into the national public health system that will have a significant social impact on the population.She commented that three such PETCT devices are to be installed in medical institutions in Havana.

According to the expert, the equipment will allow for a cancer diagnosis well in advance of the appearance of any anatomical manifestation. Guerrero added that “we are going to be one step further in cancer diagnosis and treatment evaluation.“

One such device has been installed in the Oncology Hospital and two others are to be located at the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital and another at CIMEQ. She said that in regard to treatment, a High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) machine, the first in the Latin American region, had been installed at the CIMEQ.

Guerrero recalled that this innovation, which permits the ablation of tumor related damage, is of particular use for uterine fibroid.

As part of the program two intraoperative radiotherapy machines have been installed and they should come into service within the next few months. She emphasized that these would be used for the treatment of breast cancer. These facilitate surgery and tumor extirpation and the subsequent application of a single dose of radiation therapy on the tumor bed, thus reducing the duration of external radiotherapy treatment and permitting the control of radiation induced side effects.

Two lineal electron accelerators, which are technologically superior to those operating in the country and will permit real-time treatment management, are also coming online. There are presently 203 tumor diseases classified as cancer which cause more deaths than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

In Cuba, Medical Oncology is developed within the National Medication Program with an increasing number –from 28 in 1999 to 67 in 2014 -- of available pharmaceuticals which, in spite of their high international prices, are distributed freely to every cancer patient.

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