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Sweden plans to centralise cancer care

TT/The Local/pvs · 23 May 2011, 16:28

Published: 23 May 2011 16:28 GMT+02:00

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The highly specialised care required for uncommon types of cancer will be coordinated nationally according to a overall strategy, according to a new agreement.

"Certain treatments need to be centralised in a few places in order to ensure the highest quality care," health minister Göran Hägglund told the TT news agency.

In the future, treatment for certain types of cancer will be divided between different regions and counties, according to a new agreement between the government and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR).

The costs of medical research for cancer and other diseases continue to rise dramatically. Thus Swedish cancer research will become more centralised as well, due largely to financial considerations, according to Hägglund.

"Yes, in the sense that we can't achieve top results at every hospital in Sweden, as it becomes unreasonably expensive," he said.

"Here we want to be certain that we have clinical research at a high international level," he added.

The future of cancer care in Sweden is not set to undergo a review and is scheduled to be completed by September 1st, 2013.

"By then we'll have achieved a break down as to what should occur and where," said Hägglund.

He emphsasied that competence in treating more common forms of cancer, like breast and prostate cancer, will continue to be available across the country.

However, treatment for less common types of cancer, in which fewer patients require treatments that demand high levels of knowledge and advanced equipment, will be centralised.

"That sort of activity is something we need to operate in relatively few locations in order to reach the highest possible quality," said Hägglund.

Studies have shown that being close to home and relatives is important for people receiving treatment for serious illnesses.

If cancer care in Sweden is centralised further, more patients will be forced to live in another part of the country during treatment.

The Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden) supports reforms of Sweden's cancer care.

In early April, the group released a report which found that hundreds of lives could have been saved if cancer care were more centralised.

According to the Cancer Society, many women with ovarian cancer could have been saved in Sweden through more specialised surgeries.

Another problem the group identified within Swedish cancer care was a lack of pathologists – specialists in disease and diagnosis.

Last Thursday, the government appointed Marie Beckman Suurküla, a former director at Uppsala University Hospital, to lead a review of Swedish pathology with the aim of offering suggestions as to how to strengthen and increase expertise in the area.

Hägglund admitted there are shortcomings in today's system.

Story continues below…

"It can lead to people waiting an inappropriately long time for an assessment, that diagnoses are delayed, and that action is taken so late that it can actually affect the course of the disease.

As if to illustrate Hägglund's point, Sweden's TV4 affiliate in Värmland in central Sweden reported on Thursday about an elderly man who died after his oesophageal cancer went undiagnosed.

Despite making repeated trips to various health clinics complaining of stomach cramps, doctors failed to detect the disease.

Other diagnoses included a broken rib and constipation and each time he was prescribed pain killers.

After ten months, doctors finally discovered that the man had cancer of the oesophagus and he died a month later.

The case prompted Värmland County Council to report itself to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) in accordance with Sweden's Lex Maria, the informal name used to refer to regulations governing the reporting of injuries or incidents in the Swedish health care system.

TT/The Local/pvs (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

21:19 May 23, 2011 by RLBorg
Centralize diagnosis. NOT treatment. If doctors need help have them able to go to a specialized group to get help. If the patient nets to be diagnosed then send them to the centralized location. Tearing apart families and uprooting patients at a time where they need stability and some sense of home is not the answer.
22:29 May 23, 2011 by johnny1939
Most people would like the best care possible for the best outcome even if it means being separated from their family for some time. I know that I would. when one is sick one tends to get a bit selfish and I am not sure if a lot of family breathing down one's neck would not be more of a problem at this difficult time.
09:14 May 24, 2011 by NewinSweden
What it really happens is that Doctors and Pharma are focus in how to get as much mony as possible, it is believe that man has discover the cure for cancer but they will never publish it due to a loose of business! since they have our lives in their hands if they see that they can get mone out of us they do give some attention if not they just send you home just like kidnappers.... shame on doctors, medicin and professional ethics the government should take control over them!!
10:33 May 24, 2011 by karex
@NewinSweden I think you have a point there. It has been known for a long time that there is a lot of money to be made in the treatment of many diseases and not so much in the cure. Therefore it is to the interest of certain business groups - particularly the pharmaceutical companies, to keep people in ill health. The more sick people there are, the more medication to treat the disease that they sell... It is a a shameful and totally unacceptable practice but one that exists nonetheless.

Whether true or not, I have heard several times that pharma companies routinely pay huge amounts of money to buy off patents for cures of diseases only to destroy them. Reminds me of the church or Rome burning anything and everything, including everyone, who was not "in line" with their doctrine... The excuse was that it posed a danger to the future of the church. Well, healthy people pose a danger to the future of the pharmaceutical companies...
11:08 May 24, 2011 by johnny1939
Guys you have something there that I think is coming into play. I have noticed in the States that there is sometimes 2 to three pharmacies on the same street. Could people be that sick? Doctors are very quick in prescribing medications of all kinds. some people I know of a certain age take up 8 meds a day!!! That could never be good. One of the biggest money makers for deposits in arteries that is most likely not effective for most people but everybody is encouraged to take. I have been resisting it for years and am still here . You really have to protect yourself and read up on as much as possible.
11:12 May 24, 2011 by engagebrain
09:14 May 24, 2011 by NewinSweden What it really happens is that Doctors and Pharma are focus in how to get as much mony as possible, it is believe that man has discover the cure for cancer but they will never publish it due to a loose of business

Complete rubbish - do you have any evidence ?

Anyone who could cure cancer would be famous, get the Nobel prize etc
14:06 May 24, 2011 by Species125
To my understanding, in the län I live in, by law, if doctors can not provide proper care for your illness, then they are required to send you to a län which does provide such care. This, of course, sounds great on paper, BUT they do NOT do this because they have to pay the län where you recieve care. No matter that you've paid the world's highest taxes for years for health care; when it comes time to receive the care you've paid years for, they ignore you, leave you to suffer and die, and at best, you're forced to accumulate massive debt to receive real care outside of Sweden while you have a critical illness and are ripped from your family, friends, home, financial security, etc. And you can report all this to whatever authorities, and on paper, it says that they will do something, but they do NOTHING either. No one takes responsibility. The Socialstyrelsen is happy to let people die. The people who work there and handle cases could care less if / when you die. Patients are irritating paperwork to them.

So, this article just sounds like another lie and more propoganda to me. The people in charge talk about all sorts of plans and draw up all sorts of plans on paper, but when the time comes to put such planes into action, NO ONE takes responsibility. So what if special cancer centers are created. The people in that län might get better care (and I hope with all my heart that there are those who will receive the care they deserve.). But the rest of us and our families will still die a tortured death because the län will say thank you very much for your years of payment, but if you can't contribute to the pile, then you can die. That's the reality of life in Sweden, as experienced by thousands upon thousands every year. In Sweden, human life is only valued in as much as it serves to bolster the State Machine. Human life that causes a problem for the state ideology - creates extra work because it does not fit neatly into the state idealolgy becomes worthless, and thus sick people are deemed worthless by the state. Dogs and horses very often have access to better care and better care-related technology than humans in Sweden. It's a disgusting abuse of human rights and human dignity.
14:22 May 24, 2011 by Syftfel
Whenever anything is "centralized" in Sweden it usually means worse service for the patients/customers, and more benefits for the union members.
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