Croatia first EU country to introduce early lung cancer screening nationwide

REUTERS/David W Cerny

Croatian Health Ministry will on Tuesday present the first national lung cancer detection programme, for which all active smokers between 50 and 70 years of age will qualify, as well as those who have quit smoking within the last 15 years and were consuming at least 30 packs of cigarettes per year. This makes Croatia the first EU country to introduce nationwide screening for early lung cancer detection.

The programme, which is conducted by the Health Ministry in cooperation with the Croatian Thoracic Association and will begin this year, aims to cut lung cancer mortality by 20 percent in the next five to ten years, which, if successful, will save some 500 lives every year and raise the five-year survival rate from 10 to 15 percent.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of malignant disease deaths worldwide, and some 3,000 people are diagnosed in Croatia every year, with smoking being the primary cause. According to research, nearly a third of Croatians are smokers – 35.3 percent of men and 27.1 percent of women, with the prevalence of cancer stagnating in men and rising in women. In 2018, nearly 900 women and more than 2,100 men were diagnosed with lung cancer, and almost 2,800 of them lost the battle with the disease.

Despite considerable progress in treatment, in most cases lung cancer remains incurable, owing in most part to the fact that those suffering from the disease do not show symptoms until after it has reached an advanced stage, when recovery is no longer possible.

Under the national programme, screenings will be performed on low-dose high-resolution CT scanners (LDCT), which can detect even the slightest change in the lungs.

Health facilities across Croatia, in the city of Zagreb, the Adriatic cities of Split, Dubrovnik, and Zadar, the Istrian city of Pula, northern cities of Varazdin and Krapinske Toplice, and eastern cities of Osijek, Virovitica, and Slavonski Brod, are now equipped with 16 such scanners.