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Nationwide Screening for Cancers, Heart Attack Risks

The program will be undertaken gradually, covering one province at a time, and is expected to cover all the 31 provinces by the end of the current in March 2018
Iran stands first in the region and fourth in the world vis-à-vis prevention and control of NCDs.Iran stands first in the region and fourth in the world vis-à-vis prevention and control of NCDs.

A national plan to screen Iranians for three commonly prevalent cancers and risk factors associated with heart attack will take off soon across the provinces, with a call to the targeted population to get tested, said Dr. Ahmad Kousha, head of the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Center at the Health Ministry on Saturday.

“Last year (ended March 20), a pilot plan in this regard was successfully implemented in four cities of  Baft (Kerman Province), Shahreza (Isfahan Province), Naqadeh (West Azarbaijan), and Maraqe (East Azarbaijan),” IRNA quoted him as saying.

The ministry now plans to implement the screening program at the national level. “It will be undertaken gradually, covering one province at a time, and is expected to cover all the 31 provinces by the end of the current year in March 2018,” Kousha said.

The program is one of the ministry’s most important tools for controlling and preventing NCDs, he said. “All people above the age of 30 will be called to get tested for the main risk factors associated with heart attack.”

Explaining the risk factors he said, “People at risk of cardiovascular complications and heart attack tend to have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and too much fat around the waist, low good cholesterol (HDL), and high triglycerides for about 10 years before the onset of a heart attack or stroke.”

  Three Prevalent Cancers

Regarding cancers, Kousha said “All women above the age of 30 will be screened for breast and cervical cancers through mammography and pap smear as well as human papilloma virus (HPV) tests.”

“Additionally, all men and women above the age of 50 will be screened for colon cancer through fecal occult blood test (FOBT) which is a lab test used to check stool samples for hidden (occult) blood,” he added.

Along with the screening, people categorized at risk of heart attack will be offered necessary consultations and those who are in need of treatment will be provided medications.

Color cards will be issued to all those who have undergone screening. People with high risk factors for developing the diseases will receive red cards and those at lower risks will receive yellow cards, the official added.

The nationwide plan is a part of Iran’s Package of Essential NCD Interventions (known as IraPEN).

  NCDs Prevention

 Mortality rate in the 30-70 age groups in the country is high with statistics indicating that 25% of the total deaths registered are among people in this age bracket, prompting health officials to devise plans to prevent the high death rate.

The likelihood of premature mortality from the four main NCDs (heart diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes) between ages 30 and 70 years is 17% in Iran.

Experts say that the mechanical lifestyle especially in the metropolises marked by daily stress, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits like greater consumption of junk food as against home-made  meals, as well as widespread use of cigarettes and tobacco are among the main factors that have inflated the risks of NCDs.   

Based on the WHO rankings, Iran stands first in the region and fourth in the world vis-à-vis prevention and control of NCDs. It is also among the ten countries to have devised a strategic plan for the purpose.

The National Document for Prevention and Control of NCDs was unveiled in July 2015 in the presence of WHO Director-General Margaret Chan during her visit to Tehran. It was ratified later by the government and took effect in February 2016.

The document pursues 13 objectives of which reducing trans fatty acids, the high traffic deaths, addiction and mental health are regarded as top priorities.

Globally, 38 million NCD deaths occur before the age of 70; almost three-quarter of these premature deaths or 28 million occur in low and middle-income countries. Cardiovascular diseases account for most of NCD deaths, or 17.5 million people annually, followed by cancers (8.2 million), respiratory diseases (4 million), and diabetes (1.5 million).

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