Scientific associations of oncology and cancer patients have launched the campaign “A new normal, the same cancer”, within the framework of World Cancer Day, February 4. The objective is to encourage people diagnosed with this disease to continue attending the doctor for its follow-up and treatment.
The coronavirus settled in Spain almost a year ago and, with it, the saturation of health centers, the confirmation of thousands of cases and deaths from SARS-CoV-2.
This scenario spread fear among the population and, especially, among patients with a previous pathology. Studies such as ‘Health impact of the coronavirus on hospital care for oncohematological patients‘ point out that, between March and June 2020, the number of first consultations decreased by about 21%, compared to the same months of 2019.
This impact was also observed in a study carried out by the Hospital 12 de Octubre in Madrid during the first peak of the pandemic, with a 37% decrease in new referrals of cancer patients.
On the eve of World Cancer Day, February 4, cancer patient associations and scientific oncology societies, together with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, have teamed up to launch the campaign ‘A new normal, the same cancer‘.
The initiative has been co-organized by the Pancreas Cancer Association (ACanPan), the Spanish Association of People Affected by Lung Cancer (AEACaP), the Spanish Association of People Affected by Lymphoma, Myeloma and Leukemia (AEAL), the Hereditary Ovary Breast Association (AMOH ), the Association of People Affected by Ovarian Cancer (ASACO), the Spanish Federation of Breast Cancer (FECMA), the Spanish Group of Cancer Patients (GEPAC) and AstraZeneca and has the institutional support of the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) and with the social endorsement of the Spanish Society of Hematology and Hemotherapy (SEHH).
Null or late diagnosis
The study authors detail that one of the “most serious” consequences during the first wave of the pandemic has been that the number of cancer diagnoses has decreased.
“The potential risks and benefits of each intervention are further evaluated, an attempt is made to minimize trips to the hospital, and telephone assistance is being prioritized in situations in which it does not involve a deterioration in the quality of care for patients. ”, Details the president of SEOM, Dr. Álvaro Rodríguez-Lescure.
Experts estimate that 1 in 5 cancer patients has not been diagnosed or has been diagnosed late.
This delay in the diagnosis of cancer can mean, they explain, the detection of tumors at a more advanced stage, which implies a reduction in quality of life and a negative impact on survival.
Since the campaign ‘A new normal, the same cancer‘, professionals have the objective of encouraging people diagnosed with cancer to follow the instructions of their doctor and carry out follow-up tests. They also raise awareness of the importance of diagnosis, since “despite the pandemic, cancer is still present.”
Early detection, more years of life
In addition to diagnosed patients, the campaign is aimed at society, since, for experts, it is “essential” that the population is able to recognize cancer and raise the alarm.
“It is essential that all those who detect symptoms compatible with cancer, go to their health center as soon as possible. And, on the other hand, those who are undergoing treatment or revision do not stop going to their appointments because hospitals and health centers are safe places for them ”, advises Bernard Gaspar, president of the Spanish Association of People Affected by Lung Cancer (AEACaP).
Early diagnosis of cancers such as pancreatic cancer can extend the life of the patient “five years or more.”
“There is currently no diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer. That is why it is so important to know its signs and symptoms, to help detect the disease in its early stages. Patients who are diagnosed when surgery is an option are more likely to live five years or more ”, warns Cristina Sandín, president of the Pancreatic Cancer Association (ACanPan).
The most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
Pain in the middle of the back.
Unexplained weight loss
Persistent abdominal pain
Changes in bowel habit.
Loss of appetite.
Breast and Ovarian Cancer
Since the campaign, women are also insisted that they do not stop going to their appointments, both gynecological and early detection programs for breast cancer.
We reiterate to all women who attend breast cancer early detection programs when they are called, because the implementation of these programs has been proven safe and effective “, stresses Antonia Gimón, president of the Spanish Federation of Breast Cancer (FECMA ).
“It is the only way to detect as soon as possible any problem that may exist”, warns the president of the Association of People Affected by Ovarian Cancer (ASACO), Charo Hierro.
Despite the challenges that arose during the first months of the pandemic for cancer care, experts indicate that, in Spain, treatments were barely reduced thanks to services such as home dispensing of drugs.
“They have been an active and key part in the transformation in record time of new management methods and communication channels as the basis for a new reality. We are experiencing the beginning of a new form of doctor-patient relationship ”, comments Marisa Cots, president of the Hereditary Breast Ovary Association (AMOH).
The relationship of patients with their specialist has remained intact, although the authors of the campaign believe that there has been a lack of fluency in communication.
For this reason, the campaign also aims to recognize the work of all health professionals to continue caring for patients normally.
They also highlight the efforts of hospitals and health centers to adapt to the new circumstances and guarantee the safety of patients with initiatives in telemedicine, telepharmacy or the establishment of clean circuits.
“During the pandemic we are still there, because the cancer has not disappeared,” emphasizes the president of FECMA.