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Mongolia Takes Steps to Reduce Liver Cancer Rates

Central Asian country has the highest rate of disease and the highest rate of mortality from the disease in the world.   

8 November 2017

The Mongolian government is finally tackling liver cancer, an illness that has plagued the country and, together with liver cirrhosis, accounted for 15 percent of all fatalities, The Guardian reports.

 

Last year, parliament approved subsidies for hepatitis medicine of more than 23.4 billion tugriks ($9.5 million). This year marked the introduction of a screening and treatment program that would cover free hepatitis testing for people between the ages of 40 and 60. And the program, which comes at a cost of 226 tugriks until 2020, will be extended to younger patients in 2018.

 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Mongolia has the highest rate of liver cancer and highest mortality rate from the disease in the world. Chronic hepatitis, which can quickly develop from an untreated hepatitis infection, is the most common risk factor for liver cancer. Of Mongolia’s 3 million citizens, over 13 percent are diagnosed with a hepatitis virus during their lifetime.

 

One of the major obstacles to early diagnosis is the shortage of adequately equipped clinics in rural areas. Image: Bohao Zhao Tongfei / Wikimedia Commons

 

The costs of screening and treatment can be prohibitively expensive. Many patients resort to traditional treatments, such as eating wild boar liver, when they cannot afford the medical costs, WHO reports.

 

Early diagnosis remains the most critical factor in minimizing the effects of the disease. WHO says that one of the main hurdles in achieving that goal is a shortage of medical clinics with sufficient laboratory capacity to detect viral infection in rural areas.

 

With the renewed focus on the disease, it is hoped that more education and awareness will lead to lower rates of initial infection, earlier diagnoses, and better survival rates.

 

“In the area of treatment Mongolia is making really good progress in screening the people, identifying people with chronic hepatitis,” Narantuya Jadambaa, a technical officer in Mongolia for WHO, told The Guardian.

 

  • According to a report published in the medical journal The Lancet, while Asia has been traditionally affected by the hepatitis virus, Mongolia carries the additional burden of a high Hepatitis C prevalence, for which there is no known vaccine.

 

  • While unsafe dental and medical practices in the 70s and 80s are thought to have played large parts in early infection rates, the high rate of alcohol consumption is now one of the biggest aggravating factors in Mongolia. Continued alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, a liver scarring so bad it stops the liver’s normal functions. Cirrhosis linked with Hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer, according to WHO.

Compiled by Kate Syme-Lamont

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