Nuclear Medicine Centre to Open in Semey

Kazakhstan’s first nuclear medicine centre is to be constructed in Semey.

“It was proposed to build such a radiological facility back in 2003, based on the existing oncology centre,” Bayan Atantayeva, deputy director of radiological services of Semey regional oncology centre, said.

“Even then, the cost of such a grand project was estimated at 13.9 billion tenge (about US$89.6 million). And only in 2007, during the visit of then-Prime Minister Karim Massimov, was the decision taken to build a nuclear medicine centre. I would like to emphasise that this will be the first centre of this kind in Kazakhstan,” Atantayeva said.

Even during construction, the main section of the building is maintaining 85 beds, Atantayeva said. The centre is also training their staff while construction is ongoing.

“Within the framework of the two long-term projects with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] from 2007 to today, 25 specialists have undergone training abroad. These were not only doctors but engineers, physicists, chemists,” Atantayeva said.

“An engineering and radiological service is also operating within the oncology centre, and all those specialists have undergone training abroad in Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Russia, et cetera. Their roles are not to be underestimated, as they are responsible for maintaining medical equipment that has to function without fail, medical physicists are involved in the planning of radiotherapy and chemical engineers will be engaged in producing radiopharmaceuticals in a cyclotron mounted in the nuclear medicine centre,” Atantayeva said.

“Currently, this would be the first centre of its kind in Kazakhstan, although in Astana a department of nuclear medicine has been operating since 2010 at the National Diagnostics Centre,” she added. “It is equipped with positron emission tomography and single photon emission tomography, which is mostly used to assess cancer patients. This small department serves almost the entire population of Kazakhstan needing an accurate diagnosis. This is quite insufficient. It was therefore decided to build a large Semey Nuclear Medicine Centre to give Kazakhs access to high quality medical care, free of charge.”

“Our work will include producing our own radiopharmaceuticals and using them for diagnostic purposes, not only to detect cancer, but also cardiovascular disease and diseases of the renal and endocrine systems. We are also planning to open a radionuclide therapy wing with 15 beds. It will assist endocrinological patients with diffuse toxic goiter and thyroid cancer. Today, patients with toxic goiters are not able to be treated in our country because there is no appropriate medical facility, and patients who can afford it go abroad for treatment. This treatment costs 1,700 euros (US$2,322) a week. In our Nuclear Medicine Centre, any treatment for Kazakh citizens will be free of charge.”

According to statistics from the Kazakh Ministry of Healthcare, there are over 17,000 patients with toxic goiter in the country.

“Since February 2013, we have conducted thyroid scintigraphic studies. During this time, 535 people were examined and four cases of thyroid cancer and one of follicular neoplasm were found,” Atantayeva said

“There are no such centres, not even in neighbouring Russian regions,” said Tolebay Rakhypbekov, president of the Semey Medical University, back in December 2012.

“In Kazakhstan, we have only a few diagnostic centres that can detect the early stages of cancer and treat patients with radiopharmaceuticals,” he said adding that the teachers and doctors at the university had undergone special training and were ready for the opening of the centre.

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