Prime Minister Šimonytė and health experts remind women to get tested


2022 05 27


As the International Women's Health Day on 28 May approaches, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, together with the National Health Insurance Fund  under the Ministry of Health, urges Lithuanian women to take better care of themselves and to undergo periodic health check-ups under the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention Programmes, which are paid for by the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund (CHIF). Timely health screening, even if no symptoms are felt, allows these cancers to be diagnosed at an early stage and successfully treated.

Although women in Lithuania have a life expectancy ten years longer than men, they face many more health problems. According to the Institute of Hygiene (IH), cardiovascular diseases and malignant neoplasms are the main causes of death for women in Lithuania. In 2021, the number of women with circulatory diseases in the country will surpass 553 000, and the number of women with malignant tumours will reach 167 000. This is several times more depressing than for men, which is why women's access to free health screening as part of their disease prevention programmes is becoming a necessity rather than a recommendation.

"Women are often taking care of everyone around them, sometimes forgetting themselves: children, loved ones, the four corners of the house and other chores, dealing with hundreds of personal and global problems. So forgetfulness comes not only from the amount of worries, but also from the urgency of time. Today is exactly the day to pause and finally think about ourselves and our health. The state is giving us an exceptional opportunity to be tested free of charge for truly insidious and threatening oncological diseases, so let us seize this opportunity. All you need to do is visit your family doctor. Let's not forget that only by being healthy and strong ourselves will we be able to take care of others and the world around us," said Prime Minister Šimonytė.

In Lithuania, two disease prevention programmes - breast and cervical cancer - are funded by the CHIF, exclusively for women. However, they are also periodically invited to be screened under the cardiovascular and colorectal cancer prevention programmes. Women with compulsory health insurance who are in the target age group need only contact their family doctor if they want to have a health check-up under these programmes.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women not only in Lithuania but also worldwide. According to HI data, as many as 18 735 women were diagnosed with breast malignancies last year. This is 670 more women than the previous year. As many as 535 women died of breast cancer in 2021.

Cervical cancer is also on the rise. According to IH data, 3 128 women in the country were affected by these malignant tumours last year, a full 100 more than the year before. Last year, 161 Lithuanian women died from this form of cancer. It is the fourth most common female cancer in the world.

Medical and health experts agree that timely diagnosis is one of the most important factors in controlling the rising cancer morbidity and mortality rates. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 30% and 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented by reducing key risk factors and implementing existing long-term cancer prevention strategies.

"We can be pleased that in the 18 years of breast and cervical cancer prevention programmes, nearly 450 000 women have participated in at least one programme to date. Some of them have been reassured that they are healthy, while others have received the priceless gift of a second chance of life. However, data from the NHIF show that only 42-43% of those who are eligible for these cancer screening programmes have their health checked periodically. Thus, women's participation in the programmes is still far from sufficient. Therefore, we invite women to be more courageous and active in visiting their family doctor and getting tested for oncological diseases, thus saving their health and even their lives", says Tatiana Golubayeva, Deputy Director of the NHIF.

According to the data of the Health Insurance Fund, more than 119,000 women took part in the breast cancer prevention programme last year. Of these, mammography helped to detect or suspect malignant lesions in almost 800 patients. Meanwhile, of the 127,000 women who participated in the cervical screening programme in 2021, 135 were found to have abnormalities that may progress to cervical cancer in the future. These two programmes alone prevented the spread of oncological diseases in more than 900 Lithuanian women last year.

Starting this year, the cervical cancer prevention programme has added a new service: human papillomavirus and liquid cervical cytology smear tests for women of a certain age. This represents an increase of €3.3 million in funding for the programme. Funding for the Breast Cancer Prevention Programme has also increased by half a million euros this year. Each year, the sickness funds allocate more and more CHIF funds to all prevention programmes. This year, €30.8 million is planned, €6 million more than last year.

Health insurance funds remind patients who do not fall into the age group defined by the programme but are worried about their health to contact their family doctor immediately. After assessing the state of their health, they will carry out the necessary tests to determine the cause of the ailment and start treatment, and if necessary, issue a referral for a consultation with a specialist doctor.

For more information about free disease prevention programmes in Lithuania click here

(E.Čičiurkaitė/BNS pict.)

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Your questions are welcome by email [email protected] or phone: local (8 5) 232 2222, international +370 5 232 222