Joint WHO–IAEA mission to improve cancer control in Kazakhstan


Due to an ageing population and changes in lifestyle, the incidence of cancer is increasing in Kazakhstan. Statistics from the WHO European Health for All database show that, while 173 new cancer cases were reported per 100 000 inhabitants in 1995, 208 per 100 000 were reported in 2015.

To address this threat, Kazakhstan’s Minister of Health and Social Development Tamara Duysenova has initiated an ambitious process for improving cancer prevention and control in the country. On her request, the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) and WHO set up a collaborative mission to examine all aspects of the cancer control spectrum: primary and secondary prevention (including screening), diagnosis, treatment, palliative care, cancer registries, and national cancer control planning and funding. The mission included experts and managers from all 3 levels of WHO (WHO headquarters, WHO/Europe and the WHO Country Office in Kazakhstan) to ensure coherence in WHO interventions and coordinated contact with international and national partners for future actions in this field.

The country visit took place on 12–19 November 2016. Guided by professionals from the Kazakh Institute of Oncology and Radiology, 10 international experts – one of the largest WHO–IAEA teams ever assembled – visited Kazakh facilities and met professionals from Almaty, Astana, Aktobe and Karaganda. They shared their preliminary assessment with the Ministry of Health and Social Development’s executive team at the end of the mission. Their immediate specific recommendations included:

  • scaling up current prevention interventions (HPV vaccination, effective fiscal measures for tobacco control);
  • prioritizing evidence-based screening programmes (cervix, breast and colorectal cancer);
  • developing training in several specific professional specialities;
  • strengthening the quality, completeness and analysis of cancer registry data;
  • improving the availability of opioid analgesics, which are still insufficiently used for pain relief; and
  • ensuring occupational safety of health workers.

WHO will ensure an office-wide review of the material and will use the findings to further refine its support to Kazakhstan, including for occupational health and safety. The Ministry’s executive team, led by the Minister herself, paid close attention to the findings and recommendations, enquiring into additional details on follow-up and proposals for interventions.

The expert team will deliver the full report with detailed recommendations to the Ministry in early 2017. WHO will continue to assist Kazakhstan in implementing these recommendations.