This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date

Doctors of Chernobyl

Background - 27 March, 2006
Just ahead of the holiday season, the hospital's corridors and consulting rooms are full. Surgeon Igor Komisarenko, head of the Institute for Endocrinology, has been operating all morning. Most of his patients are women with thyroid cancer. "Four years after the explosion we were confronted with a surge of cases of children with thyroid cancer. The closer to Chernobyl, the higher the chances of getting thyroid cancer."

Nila Bandarenko from Zhytomir has her third operation on her thyroid gland. Surgeon Kommissarenko says after her second operation ‘microscopic particles of the cancer got into her blood vessels and the cancer started growing there”. Bandarenko also has kidney cancer. Ukraine has an explosion of thyroid cancer. The Kiev Institute of Endocrinology saw a sharp increase three to four years after Chernobyl. First mainly children were diagnosed; now the majority are adult women.

Carel de Rooy, the UNICEF representative to the Russian Federation andBelarus, says that the World Health Organization expects many more newcases. UNICEF and other UN offices have been campaigning for years fora policy of universal salt iodization that would make thyroid glandsmuch less vulnerable to radioactive iodine through becoming saturatedwith the iodized salt. So far, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have notbeen willing to adapt their regulations.

Doctor Komisarenko: "After the Chernobyl disaster, iodine wasdistributed too late, but radiation can affect all parts of the humanbody. It can of course affect the stomach, the respiratory tract andthe gynaecological organs." He has also noticed a rise in seriouskidney diseases.

Paediatrician Valentina Smolnikova has seen the consequences in BudaKashelova in the south of Belarus. She has been working there since1979 and has seen dramatic changes since the nuclear disaster: "Beforethat, we hardly had any oncology problems concerning children. Nowthere are many cases of brain tumours, cancer of the eyes, kidneys andother organs." She noticed the first increase after the disaster incases of bone and skin cancer: "There were also disorders of thenervous system with stress, depressions and abnormal behaviour." Aftersome years, the pattern changed and Smolnikova then started gettingpatients with thyroid cancer and leukaemia.

"Now there are many children with congenital heart and kidneydiseases." According to Smolnikova, in her area only ten percent of thechildren are born really healthy: "Many children have chronic diseasesor they have very low immunity. Very young children have been herebetween 30 to 50 times. They are here every single month of theirlives." Nastya Eremenko, (9), when she was three years old she wasdiagnosed with cancer of the uterus. Later on the cancer spread to herlungs. Nastya has had several blocks of chemotherapy.


The above text is an extract from the forth-coming book;Certificate no. 000358/Nuclear devastation in Kazakhstan, Ukraine,Belarus, the Urals and Siberia. © (Photography) 2006 Robert Knoth, ©(Text) 2006 Antoinette de Jong.