The Ministry of Health, as part of the “Spyros Doxiadis” action plan, is implementing an ambitious free cancer screening program with three pillars and cardiovascular action, aimed at millions of adult citizens.

It is the largest screening program implemented in the country and the beginning was made with the “Fofi Gennimata” program for breast cancer, where 300,000 free diagnostic tests have been performed to date and the goal is to have 1,300,000 by the end of 2025 free diagnostic tests for women.

In the next few days, the other big screening program for Cervical Cancer starts, in June, the program for preventive examinations for colon cancer is expected to start, while the corresponding program for cardiovascular risk expected to start in the second half of 2024.

The timetable for the implementation of the planned actions is given to APE-MPE by the Deputy Minister of Health Irini Agapidaki, emphasizing that “with prevention as the key to defending our health and regular examinations as the step towards a life full of well-being, we make health each person’s priority and we highlight a healthy future”.

2.5 million women in the cervical cancer prevention program

The cervical cancer prevention program covers approximately 2.5 million women aged 21 to 65 and provides free Pap test, HPV-DNA test, colposcopy and biopsy, with the safe and specialized examination by specialist doctors.

Ms. Agapidaki clarifies that the free biopsy also concerns the performance and collection of the sample. “There’s no cost to women, we don’t want any woman to think about the cost of detecting a finding in the first test, because that’s one of the main barriers that prevent women from getting even the basic test,” she says. in APE-MEP.

It emphasizes that “the cervical cancer prevention program is available free of charge to all women. It is implemented based on the plan of the Ministry of Health and covers all women, regardless of whether they are insured or uninsured.”

He notes that all preventive examinations within the framework of the “Spyros Doxiadis” action program are completely free. “In this way, we seek to reduce inequalities in access to preventive services. Our goal is for everyone to do the necessary preventive tests, not to postpone them, so that we can save as many lives as possible”, says Ms. Agapidaki.

In addition, he continues, “we should not forget that the HPV vaccine is reimbursed for girls and boys and together with preventive examinations can make a decisive contribution so that, in a few years from now, our country will not have new cases of breast cancer of the cervix due to the HPV virus’.

Beneficiaries of the cervical cancer screening program Greek citizens and female citizens of other countries who legally reside in the Greek Territory and cumulatively meet the following conditions:

belong to the age group between 21 and 65 years

· have a Social Security Number (SIN), regardless of whether they have active insurance capacity

· have not undergone a partial or total hysterectomy due to cancer

· have not been diagnosed with cervical cancer type C 53.0, 1, 8, 9

· have not been diagnosed with uterine body cancer type C 54.0, C 55.0

· have not performed a PAP-TEST examination, during the 3 calendar years preceding the entry into force of the invitation to participate

· if they belong to the age sub-group between 21 and 29 years old, they have not performed an HPV-DNA TEST during the 3 calendar years preceding the entry into force of the invitation to participate

· if they belong to the age sub-group between 30 and 65 years, they have not performed an HPV-DNA TEST during the 5 calendar years preceding the entry into force of the invitation to participate

The procedure for conducting the examinations

Women will be notified by SMS when their tests are about to start, following the model successfully used in the breast cancer program “Fofi Gennimata”.

Those beneficiaries who have activated the process of prescribing immaterial referral diagnostic tests, are informed about the automatic issuance of the referral via a text message (sms) to their mobile phone and/or an electronic message to their email address (e-mail).

A relevant reminder is sent to them again via a text message (sms) to their mobile phone in case of non-execution of the referral within 6 months.

The rest of the beneficiaries can, using their AMKA, request at a public or private Health Care Unit of their choice, the printing of the paper referral from the Electronic Prescribing System.

“To facilitate women’s access to these services, doctors and analysis laboratories are planned to be made available throughout the country, in both the public and private sectors, eliminating the need for long waits or difficulties in making appointments. Thus, women can undergo the necessary tests at no cost, easily, quickly and for free”, says Ms. Agapidaki.

According to the KYA, the examinations are carried out in public and private Health Care Units, which provide primary health care services. The Units include Health Centers, Regional Clinics, hospital outpatient clinics, private clinics, polyclinics, diagnostic laboratories, private clinics that operate external departments for the execution of medical procedures and examinations.

Expanding breast cancer screening

Mrs. Agapidaki also refers to the expansion of screening for breast cancer by widening the age limits from 50-69 years to 45-74 years, in accordance with the new European guidelines, which our country also incorporates.

“The inclusion of the new age limits for the participation of more women in the program takes place immediately, with the passing of the specific provision in the current bill of the Ministry of Health. Immediately after the vote by the Parliament, the sms for digital mammograms, ultrasounds and visits to a doctor in case of finding a finding will also be sent to the new beneficiaries”, concludes Mrs. Agapidaki.