Why Kyrgyz people are dying of cancer

Why Kyrgyz people are dying of cancer




Data from the National Statistics Committee show that 15 Kyrgyz residents are receiving a terrifying cancer diagnosis every day, rising to 5,500 annually.


The data department 24.kg has analysed data on morbidity and mortality rates since Kyrgyzstan gained its independence. The results are very depressing and unless action is taken the number of cancer deaths will continue to rise.


It’s too late to be drinking borjomi


Specialists and physicians are sounding the alarm, worried that people are leaving it too late to seek medical treatment, thus denying them the chance to fight the disease. 55% of newly diagnosed patients will die during the first year.


There are also certain parts of the country where there is a 100% mortality rate, with all newly diagnosed patients in the cities of Suluktu and Kara-Kul and Toguz-Toro and Toktogul regions having died in 2021.


The highest death rate during the first year of diagnosis has been seen in Naryn and Jalal-Abad oblasts. Two-thirds of patients have died there, compared with Bishkek where mortality is 25%.


Why is this happening?


Our analysis shows that people are waiting too long to see their doctor, with two out of seven patients only visiting their physician during the fourth stage of cancer progression.


Gulmira Abdyrazakova, Chairwoman of the Association of Patient Communities and Head of the Together Against Cancer charity, said there are several reasons why around one-third of patients are being diagnosed during the latter stages of the disease.


Reasons why cancer patients are going to hospital too late are due to:


  • A lack of information among the population. Many people still regard cancer as a death sentence and are either too afraid or do not want to be treated;
  • A lack of professionalism, arrogance and rudeness on the part of doctors;
  • A lack of money for examinations, surgery and treatment;
  • No support for families, particularly when cancer is diagnosed in women;
  • Mistrust of the health care system as a whole;
  • Corruption, rudeness and bribery in medical centres.


Experts believe that the problem can be solved by regular preventive check-ups and this is borne out by the data. One-fifth of cancer patients are diagnosed during these examinations. If they were conducted more regularly, it is likely the disease would be detected in its initial stages more often and, in so doing, give people a better chance of survival.


There are more sick people every year


Data show that the number of cancer patients among both men and women has been steadily increasing since 2010. In 2021, more than 2,600 men and 3,000 women were diagnosed with the disease.


From 1991 to 1995, there were slightly more male cancer patients than women. However, after that, the situation began to change. In the past 15 years, women have been diagnosed with cancer more often. This is partly due to the fact that in recent years the country has been implementing early warning programmes for the detection and treatment for breast and cervical cancer.


Zulfira Ryskulova, Chief Specialist at the Ministry of Health’s Department of Medical Care and Drug Policy, explains the anomaly by the fact that women are visiting their doctor more often, particularly in relation to family planning and during pregnancy.


“Men often go to their doctor when symptoms are already apparent. However, these days the population has become more serious and aware about its health by having more regular check-ups, as well as seeing their GPs”, said Ryskulova.


In 2021, the highest incidence of cancer among young people up to 29 years of age were those under 14 and was common in both boys and girls. However, children comprise just 2% of the total number of cases. The reason for this is simple – parents are more attentive to their children’s health and go to see their doctor when potential symptoms arise to arrange a medical examination. Less than 1% of cases of young people who are 15 and up to 25 years of age are recorded.


Cancer is more likely to be detected in the elderly


People over 65 years old are most likely to get cancer. Interestingly, there are more reported cases in men than women, with at least two out of five men who have cancer in this age group.


Cancer in men is diagnosed in later life, with nearly two-thirds of cases detected in those over 55. In women too, most recorded cases have been those of retirement age, with a third of people who become ill over 65 years old. Data among other age groups show that 34% of diagnoses are for those between the ages 30 and 55.


What are the more common types of cancer


Stomach is the type of cancer that affects men the most, with case numbers having risen steadily over the past ten years. This is followed by cancer of the lung, trachea and bronchi and also of lymphatic and haematopoietic tissue.


In the 1990s, skin cancer was the third most common type of cancer in men. However, after 2000, the average number of cases detected per year was 140 and just over 100 in 2020 and 2021.


Breast cancer affects women the most, followed by that of the cervix and stomach. The highest number of recorded cases during the 1990s was for skin cancer, after which the rate began to decline sharply. However, in 2021, case numbers rose by 38% from 128 to 177 compared to the previous year.


We have used Ministry of Health data on the incidence of cancer per 100,000 people to validate the results of our analysis. These figures more accurately illustrate the picture that has been developing across the country. The highest number of cases is in Chui and Naryn oblasts. Every 125th Chui and 113th Naryn resident suffers from the disease. These regions also have the largest mortality rate – 84 and 77 people respectively out of 100,000 die of cancer which is 1.5 times higher than the national average.


Batken, the furthest region in the Republic, has the lowest morbidity and mortality rates. Here, cancer has been diagnosed in 49 residents and 37 out of every 100,000 people die of the disease.


“Cancer is slowly on the increase not only in Kyrgyzstan but also globally. However, we cannot say that there has been an epidemiological upsurge in any particular disease”, said Baktygul Sultangazieva, Director of the National Centre of Oncology and Haematology.


How to spot signs of cancer and when to see your doctor


Medical professionals recommend having annual preventive check-ups but there are symptoms that the public needs to be aware of. The Republic’s Centre for Health Promotion and Mass Communication has shared some of them:


  • Unexplained weight-loss of 4-5 kg or more;
  • High temperature or fever, which are most commonly seen when the cancer has metastasised;
  • Increased fatigue, tiredness;
  • Skin changes – itching or excessive hair growth may also be noted;
  • Pain which can be an early sign of certain types of tumour;
  • Changes in bowel or bladder function; sores or ulcers that do not heal; white patches in the mouth or tongue; unusual bleeding or discharges; lumps in the breast or other parts of the body; indigestion or difficulty in swallowing; changes to warts, moles or any other skin areas; an irritating or prolonged cough or hoarseness of voice.





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