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The deficiencies in cancer treatment in Vietnam

In cancer treatment, next-generation and expensive drugs do not always mean the best therapies for patients, according to Nguyen Le, a physician at Military Hospital 103.

Le has become well known in Vietnam for his fight against primary liver cancer over the last 10 years. When the tumor was discovered, he was told that he had several months to live. However, he is still working as a doctor to save people’s lives.
Le refused chemotherapy and radiotherapy. He went to the US to find a method to cure his cancer, which he has been applying with great effect.
Le pointed out that many problems still exist in cancer treatment in Vietnam. Hospitals and physicians cannot give good advice about how to cure diseases in the best way. Patients don’t know what stage of disease they are in, how serious their conditions are, and which treatment methods they need.

They just follow what physicians tell them to do – undergo operations, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy – and they are not warned about the side effects of treatment methods.

Nguyen Le, who has been fighting against liver cancer over the last 10 years
Nguyen Le, who has been fighting against liver cancer over the last 10 years

Patients do not receive reasonable advice about internal medicine treatment after operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
There are two schools in internal medicine – use either the most expensive or basic drugs. However, patients are not informed about the options.
Giving advice, not only on medical therapy, but also on psychological and economic matters, according to Le, is very important.
“Doctors need to inform patients about possible treatment methods and let them make choices, not  impose treatment methods,” he said.
Because of the lack of consultancy, patients believe that next-generation and expensive drugs are the best. But, in fact, only the most suitable drugs are the best for patients.

According to Le, there are two things that must be done in treating cancer. First, attack the tumors in the first phase with operations, chemicals and radiation. These are basic steps and no other alternative method has been found.
Second, treating patients with internal medicine, preventing relapse and metastasis and improving habitus after the attack period.

Most physicians prescribe the first method for patients.
However, Le has found that in recent years, scientists in some developed countries have begun carrying out in-depth research on the second method. They have checked patients who used chemicals and radiation and the patients who did not use them, and found that both groups of patients had equal longevity.
The patients who did not undergo treatment with chemicals and radiation had a higher quality of life. However, more research is needed before making a final conclusion.