Nurses pose with mp3 players for patients of cancer at the one-day clinic "Nikos Kourkoulos" of a central Athens public hospital in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 4, 2020. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy at the one-day clinic "Nikos Kourkoulos" of a central Athens public hospital were offered a special gift on Tuesday as World Cancer Day was observed across the globe. Under a pilot program launched by non-profit organization Hellenic Cancer Society in cooperation with private donors, patients were provided with mp3 players and the chance to listen to theater plays from the archive of national broadcaster and radio ERT, while getting treatment. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou
ATHENS, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy at the one-day clinic "Nikos Kourkoulos" of a central Athens public hospital were offered a special gift on Tuesday as World Cancer Day was observed across the globe.
Under a pilot program launched by non-profit organization Hellenic Cancer Society in cooperation with private donors, patients were provided with mp3 players and the chance to listen to theater plays from the archive of national broadcaster and radio ERT, while getting treatment.
On the occasion of the World Cancer Day, cancer survivors, who are now assisting patients as volunteers, and doctors counted the efforts, initiatives, progress steps made and shortcomings in prevention and treatment of the disease and support of patients and their families in Greece, when speaking to Xinhua.
"There is effort to improve the situation. Definitely things have changed, yes," Despina Georgopoulou, a breast cancer survivor and head of the volunteers department of the Hellenic Cancer Society, said on Tuesday.
Fifteen years after her diagnosis and therapy, she has witnessed advances in medication and methods offered to treat cancer and programs to help patients.
Initiatives such as the mp3 program and the entire one-day clinic, which was a private donation in the memory of a Greek actor who died of cancer to the Greek public anti-cancer hospital Agios Savvas, are priceless, she said.
"Being in such an environment, undergoing your therapies is very important for the patient. It plays a significant role in his/her psychology," she explained.
"I think that (listening to drama on radio) is like a light. When you are focusing there, you forget and this is very important. The goal of the book and the theater play is to help patients forget (the pain)," Georgopoulou stressed.
Pipina Drakopoulou is another breast cancer survivor and volunteer of the Hellenic Cancer Society who assisting in the library set up at the same clinic for patients and their families.
"There is communication. You know it is the most significant for the patient hearing a word, hearing 'I have been through this, and now I am ok and I can contribute to my family and society'," she told Xinhua.
Drakopoulou was diagnosed in 2013. Thanks to early detection she didn't have to go through chemotherapy.
Since then she urges people not to miss checkups. Thousands of free mammograms are performed every year across Greece under another initiative of the Hellenic Cancer Society in collaboration with the public and private sector.
"Several women in the countryside have been saved, because (of) this they did their mammograms. I only have one thing to say -- prevention, prevention, prevention," Drakopoulou said.
"Cancer has one big enemy: Prevention. A field in which our country, unfortunately, performs poorly, even though prevention and early diagnosis saves lives. The government and I consider prevention a top priority," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated in a televised statement for the day.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of deaths in Greece, as in many countries. About 27 percent of Greeks die of cancer, according to the Hellenic Society of Medical Oncology.
However, 35 percent of cases could be prevented through changes in behavior, like quitting smoking, taking up exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet, the Hellenic Cancer Federation added.
Nine out of 10 Greeks know personally a cancer patient and 54 percent say they are concerned about cancer, according to a survey conducted this January by local polling firm Kappa Research and presented on Monday during a conference by the Hellenic Cancer Society.
Greeks today are quite well informed of the factors of risk, however, some still underestimate a few factors, like obesity and neglect medical tests, with only 12 percent of the 1,002 respondents saying they undergo checkups often, according to the survey which was held in the context of an international campaign by the Union for International Cancer Control.
The campaign aims to raise awareness to address the challenge more effectively, Evangelos Filopoulos, president of the Hellenic Cancer Society, told Xinhua.
Respondents in the survey identified problems cited also by doctors and patients, calling for improved healthcare services, support of research and financial aid for patients.
Cuts on healthcare spending due to the austerity adopted during the debt crisis, which broke out in 2009, increased shortages in personnel and resources in state hospitals. And this is still affecting patients' treatment, according to Greek medical associations.
"What patients mostly need is proper healthcare and also (economic) support so that cancer will no longer be a factor of financial ruin," Filopoulos said.
"We believe that all together we can help. We believe that citizens should realize their power and do not expect everything from the state, but get mobilized and join their forces with us," he added.
Ioanna Siafaka, professor of Anesthesia and Pain Therapy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and member of board of directors of the Hellenic Cancer Society among others, welcomed developments like the smoking ban imposed in enclosed public spaces in recent months which has produced positive results, urging for immediate action to resolve other issues.
"In recent years thanks to the volunteer work of anesthetists serving in state hospitals who have specialized in pain therapy and pain management, there are 57 pain therapy and pain management centers operating in our public hospitals nationwide. However, there is a serious problem of shortage of personnel and therefore they are open only once per week and this is not enough to cover needs," she said.