Disease prevention programmes: it is easier to check up than to fall ill


2021 07 07


The especially favourable conditions have been created in Lithuania in the last 17 years to get preventive checks-up for diseases that are the major death causes in our country, i.e., vascular diseases and cancer. All the residents, who have compulsory health insurance, may be checked up free of charge even under 5 disease prevention programmes, when they attain certain age: regarding cardiovascular diseases, cervical, breast, prostate and large intestine cancer. However, the residents are passive to use this offer and often they do not know, how simple it is to check whether they are not ill, and that life can be saved in the onset of disease.

Although the conditions to prevent these severe diseases have been created, according to the information of the National Health Insurance Fund, only one third of the qualifying residents make use of the preventive programmes. In 20, the services of some preventive programmes were provided to 40 percent less residents than in 2019. Partially it was caused by smaller availability of the services and fear to get infected with Covid-19 in the medical institution. Now the situation is favourable again – the pandemic is on the ebb, people have more free time, so, the residents are encouraged to take part in the programmes by referring to general practitioners.

“The disease prevention programmes are intended for healthy persons, to be more precise, to people to whom no disease has been diagnosed and who feel well. The purpose of the state-funded preventive programmes is to detect onset of the disease and if necessary, to undertake urgent actions in order to prevent the cases when any aid is difficult or no longer possible. Contrary to the opinion of many people, not only middle-aged and elderly people, but also young persons should get checked up. Besides, on the onset of disease, no symptoms may be felt. Therefore, check-ups should be regular – if everything is good, then the check-up should be repeated after the fixed term, especially because the initial check-up is really simple and as the disease preventive programmes are free,” – says Manager of Resident Servicing Department of Vilnius Territorial Health Insurance Fund (THIF), Mrs. Lina Vitkauskienė.

According to L. Vitkauskienė, the aforementioned diseases are usually diagnosed at certain age, so the age is used as the criterion to divide people into groups. One group covers very young women – the risk of cervical cancer is high already from the age of 25 until 59 (inclusive) even in cases of no family history of this disease. Therefore, the women of that age should undergo preventive check-up every 3 years. The cytological smear is sampled quickly and painlessly. It is used to detect pre-cancer changes. With regard to the test results, the biopsy may be done to confirm or disprove the diagnosis.

40-50-year-old residents should draw major attention to what we are saying – this is the age when the risk of several diseases increases. One of the, the most frequent oncological diseases breast cancer is talked and written about publicly, but check-ups are still avoided. 50-69-year-old women (inclusive) can and have to get checked up according to the preventive programme of breast cancer every 2 years. The mammogram is performed for the women, who have referral of their general practitioner. This examination allows detecting tiny, not delt changes that may evolve into real threat to life. It is not worth taking risks, because the diagnosed breast cancer of the first stage is completely curable.

The public talking about prostate cancer also makes sense. It is the disease, the first symptoms of which are not felt usually and it is diagnosed in the advanced stage when treatment is difficult. Thus, even in absence of any disease symptoms, 50-69-year-old men (inclusive) should check up according to the preventive programme. It also applies for 45-year-old men, whose fathers or brothers have had this disease. The blood test on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is done. It shows whether the patient should be referred to urologist, for further tests or treatment. If everything is good, the check-up should be repeated after 2 or 5 years, as determined by a doctor.

The risk of another wily disease – large intestine cancer – increases over the age of 50. The surgical and other means may treat the disease well, but the problem is that the disease is often diagnosed too late. Therefore, it is very important that men and women of 50-74 years old (inclusive) would get checked up according to the preventive programme of large intestine cancer. The occult bleeding test is performed, and if the result is positive, the general practitioner refers the patient to the specialist, for colonoscopy or biopsy, if needed.

More than half of the country’s residents die because of vascular diseases (data of the Health Information Centre of the Hygiene Institute). It is quite an annoying fact that needs attention because such diseases are linked to inappropriate life style. If it is corrected, many causes of disease may be also eliminated. Due to high risk, the men of 40-54 years old (inclusive) and women of 50-64 years old (inclusive) should get checked up according to the preventive programme of cardiovascular diseases every year. The check-up is used to select the persons, who are in hazard to fall ill with severe cardiovascular disease (angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, cerebral ischemia, stroke, arterial thrombosis) in the next 10 years. Thus, instead of getting into reanimation one day unexpectedly, it is better to refer to the general practitioner according to the program and to get the risk factors identified. The preventive plan or referral for tests and treatment may be made then, if needed.

In order to get checked up according to the disease prevention programmes, the person should refer to the general practitioner in the subscribed medical institution. Usually, the check-up and all the necessary initial tests are performed by general practitioner. If these tests show disease probability and the need for the specialist doctor’s consultation or more thorough tests, the patient is referred for such services.

If the person has referral of the general practitioner, the services of disease prevention programmes may be received in their medical institution or, if the needed doctor or specific tests are not available, in some other institution that has contract with THIF. The patients do not have to pay for the tests according to the preventive programmes, work of doctors and used materials in either of the institutions.

The medical institutions providing disease prevention programmes notify their patients when they have to get checked up. When the notification is received, the person should refer to the general practitioner immediately, and if the notification is not noticed or received, the patients should make independent inquiries about checks-up.

Vilnius THIF stresses that the most important thing is to refer to the doctor when there are no health disorders manifested yet, or when the disease is in onset. Simple, painless and free tests allow preventing severe but curable or controllable diseases, and the good results allow living without any fear of possible disease.

Information of Vilnius Territorial Health Insurance Fund

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