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South Korea’s expertise in cancer treatment and assisted reproductive technology has been attracting a steady stream of female patients from the Middle East.

For decades, South Korea has been witnessing a high incidence rate for cancer. A westernised diet, smoking, binge and mixed drinking, lack of exercise and stress have been pushing the rate higher, taking it to 313.5 people per 100,000, according to the World Cancer Research Fund’s latest figures.

In order to tackle the situation, South Korea has been investing in research and development, pioneering innovative treatments over the years. It has not only built a world-class infrastructure but also developed cutting-edge technology and invested in human resources, improving outcomes for patients. The country regularly conducts studies to enhance treatment techniques and performs complex operations. Thanks to these efforts, the five-year survival rate for cancer patients in South Korea has been on the rise, touching 70.4 per cent.

The country has achieved outstanding results in the treatment of various cancers affecting the liver, gall bladder, pancreas, stomach and prostrate in addition to the most common cancers seen in women such as breast, colorectal, lung, cervical and thyroid.

With the world’s highest survival rate for breast cancer, South Korea attracts a lot of foreign patients too. Known for its top-class oncoplastic reconstruction techniques with free tumour margins, it does immediate breast reconstruction with the help of renowned plastic surgeons. The country proved the safety and feasibility of using sentinel lymph node biopsy in patients clinically suspected of axillary lymph node metastasis, which has now become the standard for breast cancer surgery.

For colorectal cancer, South Korea offers minimally invasive laparoscopic operation and sphincter-saving procedure for low rectal cancer — in fact it was the first in the world to successfully perform both the operations. It has attained survival rates of 95-98 per cent for stage 1 colorectal cancer cases and the world’s highest survival rate for advanced colorectal cancer patients.

A leader in bronchoplasty — reconstruction or repair of the bronchus to restore its function preserving as much as possible with minimal complications — the country has a higher five-year survival rate of 62.8 per cent than the worldwide average. It also has the world’s best treatment outcomes for stages 2 and 3 lung cancer patients.

Thyroid cancer is another field where South Korea shines, with its expertise in endoscopic and robotic thyroidectomy. With the world’s highest survival rate of 99.8 per cent, the country sees a huge influx of foreign patients for the treatment of thyroid cancer — in fact the largest number of medical tourists.

South Korea’s development of the world’s first advanced robotic thyroidectomy through incisions in the armpit rather than through the neck improving patients’ quality of life has contributed in no small measure to its success.

The country’s focus on providing the most advanced treatment using state-of-the-art equipment at a resonable cost compared to developed nations has stood it in good stead, attracting patients from far and wide. Its cancer centres are designed to be one-stop destinations for prevention, examination, treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare, where multidisciplinary teams of medical oncologists, radiation therapists and other specialists work together under one roof to provide 360-degree care.

A global leader in assisted reproductive technology

Just like cancer treatment, South Korea has established itself as a global leader in assisted reproductive technology (ART) with its sensitive approach, providing hope to women and couples from around the world including the Middle East.

The country has been able to develop its expertise and experience in ART with the national support extended to couples facing infertility issues. It offers advanced treatments in ART such as in vitro maturation for IVF, cryopreservation and fertility preservation, blastocyst transfer, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)/preimplantation genetic screening (PGS), time-lapse embryo monitoring, treatment of male infertility, reproductive surgery, treatment of recurrent miscarriage and repeated IVF failures, and third-party reproduction including surrogacy.

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Foreign patients looking for ART head to South Korea for these world-class fertility treatments offered by experienced and comprehensively skilled team of experts.

Creative research and the use of latest advances have ensured that South Korea’s IVF technology stays top of class. For years, it has maintained a clinical pregnancy rate of 40 per cent for IVF with fresh and frozen embryo transfers.

The country ensures a high pregnancy success rate in patients with repeated IVF failures and advanced maternal age through intensive treatments and employing the best strategies for embryo transfers. Top-quality medical staff as well as updated embryo culture system and embryology skill are key to IVF success.

Cryopreservation techniques

South Korea has been the pioneer in the field of reproductive medicine using cryopreservation techniques such as vitrification of gametes, embryos and gonadal tissues too. These cutting-edge technologies have brought hope and happiness to infertility, cancer and other patients.

Cryopreservation of ovarian tissue and reimplantation have come as a boon for cancer survivors who were at risk of infertility after cancer treatment. Although it was only in 2019 that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine defined ovarian tissue cryopreservation as a newly established option for fertility preservation, South Korea had already succeeded in retrieving oocyte using this novel technology at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital in 2015.

What’s more, South Korea employs the latest in reproductive surgery to enhance patients’ comfort and ensure positive outcomes. From single port assisted laparoscopic surgery using a 1-2cm single incision reducing post-operative pain and scars to robotic surgery that combines the advantages of laparoscopy but overcomes its limitation with the full range of motion, the country deploys the spectrum of advanced technology at its disposal to ensure patient satisfaction and success.

Add the well-educated international coordinators of Medical Korea, the national brand that represents South Korea’s excellence in medical service, to the mix who connect foreign patients with the right medical team both online and offline, and their return to normal and healthy lives becomes smooth and comfortable.