“The number of people who go to the doctor’s office early and receive thorough treatment for liver cancer is low compared to the overall incidence rate,” said Dr. Tu on the sidelines. Live Longer Liver Cancer Management Program in Vietnam for the period of 2022-2023, 10/5 pm.
The main cause of the disease is the habit of drinking alcohol, hepatitis that turns into cancer, and an unscientific lifestyle. However, most cases do not go for screening, only go for treatment when there is a large tumor. At this time, the disease is at a late stage, difficult to treat, with a high risk of death.
Liver cancer ranks first among cancers, accounting for one-fifth of the more than 25,000 cancer deaths each year. Globocan 2020 reports that each year, Vietnam has 26,418 new cases of liver cancer, accounting for 14.5% of the total number of cancer cases and 77% of liver cancer cases occurring in men. The disease also has the leading number of deaths with 25,272, accounting for 21% of the total number of cancer deaths, 3.8 times higher than the total number of traffic accident deaths in 2020 with 6,700 cases.
Besides, liver cancer is difficult to treat, advanced methods have high costs. Doctor Tu said that in the past, when surgery was not possible, the patient was prescribed chemotherapy a few times to shrink the tumor. However, this method degrades liver function after several courses of treatment. At a later stage, the patient is prescribed systemic treatment, targeted therapy to improve the condition, but the effect only lasts about 6 or 8 months.
In recent years, an immunotherapy combination of atezolizumab, bevacizumab and another drug can prolong survival for people with advanced liver cancer, twice as long as the old method. However, this therapy is expensive, each cycle costs more than 60 million dong, three cycles per year need to be performed.
“To prolong life by one year, the cost can be up to billions. At K hospital, only a few dozen patients can access it,” said Dr. Tu.
Doctor Tu believes that the amount of money for treatment is too large and is not covered by health insurance, so patients do not have the opportunity to access better treatment methods. Therefore, he hopes that liver cancer patients will be fully or partially supported with drug costs, so that patients can have access and prolong life, and improve the quality of treatment. The source of costs can be from health insurance or other sources approved by the Ministry of Health.
Assoc.Prof.Dr. Luong Ngoc Khue, Director of the Medical Examination and Treatment Department, Ministry of Health, said that it is necessary to raise public awareness and detect diseases early. The health sector improves medical expertise, enhances patients’ access to the most appropriate therapies at each stage, in order to create better effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of liver cancer.