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IAEA Helps Improve Cancer Care in Tajikistan

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Reviewing the radiotherapy unit delivered through the TC programme outside the new radiotherapy building, Soghd Regional Oncological Centre. (Photo: Shermirzoev Khabib).

Cancer patients in Tajikistan will have greater access to treatment with ongoing support from the IAEA technical cooperation (TC) programme in strengthening oncology services in the country. For many cancer patients, receiving treatment means a lengthy journey to the country’s single radiotherapy facility—the Republic Oncology Research Centre in the capital, Dushanbe. Many others go abroad to receive timelier care.

To support Tajikistan’s efforts to ensure greater access to treatment, the IAEA recently launched a new, four-year IAEA national TC project[1] to help establish a regional radiotherapy service in the northern Sughd region and enhance radiotherapy services in Dushanbe. The effort builds on an earlier national TC project[2] under which the IAEA provided modern equipment, training and expert advice on technical and clinical aspects of cancer care.

“The Government of Tajikistan continues to place high priority on strengthening health services in the country, and the project is contributing to this aim. The establishment of the second radiotherapy department in the country in the northern city of Khujand will allow greater patient access to much needed cancer treatment service and is part of Tajikistan’s large scale strategy to expand cancer treatment,” said Ms Sandra Steyskal, Section Head, Division for Europe, Department of Technical Cooperation, IAEA.

IAEA staff and officials outside the Government building, Khujand, Sogdh region, Tajikistan. (Photo: Shermirzoev Khabib).

From 9 - 13 April 2018, IAEA staff made an official visit to Tajikistan within the framework of the new TC project. During high-level meetings with Tajikistan’s Deputy Minister of Health Umarzoda Saida Gayrat and Rajabboy Ahmadzoda, Governor of the Sughd region, IAEA officials reviewed the country’s needs and the steps necessary to address them, as outlined in the “National Programme for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of malignant neoplasms in the Republic of Tajikistan for 2010-2015” and the “Action Plan for the ‘Strategy for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and injuries in the Republic of Tajikistan for the period of 2013-2023”.

“Our core contributions include providing technical, clinical and scientific advice to shielding design, procurement of radiotherapy and dosimetry equipment, commissioning and quality assurance, education and the training of staff members and arranging expert missions” said Sivananthan Sarasanandarajah, Radiotherapy Medical Physicist, Division of Human Health, Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, IAEA.

The Government of Tajikistan’s investment of 4.3 million somoni (approximately US $500 000) to construct a bunker to house the radiotherapy department at the Sughd Region Oncological Centre in Khujand is a central element of the National Programme, together with its planned commitment of 5 million somoni (approximately $550 000) for brachytherapy equipment and beds. The facility, currently in development and expected to open to patients in 2019, will operate as a branch of the Republic Oncology Research Centre, with specialists at both centres collaborating closely. Patients from the North as well as patients from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan can be accommodated in this newly established radiotherapy unit.

During their visit, IAEA staff toured the facility and discussed the future layout and plan for the installation of Agency-provided equipment and ancillary items. They also met with radiation oncologists, medical physicists and radiation therapy technologists in Khujand and Dushanbe to discuss plans for their participation in IAEA-sponsored training courses and fellowships. These courses will cover radiation treatment planning and the treatment and management of cancer patients, a major component of the TC project.

The project will also support the replacement—on a cost-sharing basis[3]—of the radioactive sources used in the Cobalt-60 teletherapy machine and the brachytherapy unit at the centre in Dushanbe. Other activities planned over the course of the project include infrastructure upgrades, fellowships, scientific visits, national training courses, and review and monitoring missions conducted by IAEA staff.

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[1] TAD6007 ‘Strengthening the Central and Northern Oncology Centres’. The project is scheduled to run from 2018 to 2022.

[2] TAD6006 ‘Providing Radiotherapy Services in the Sugd Regional Cancer Centre’

[3] Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health is contributing approximately $188 000 for the source exchange.

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