Tuesday, October 3

During the pandemic “cancer does not wait”

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Especially at this time, after two years of the pandemic, we must remember the importance of detecting cancer early, going to routine medical check-ups and being vigilant for any persistent symptoms. Cancer has a high incidence in Spain with an estimated 276,000 new cases each year1 and furthermore, according to data published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the second cause of death in our country, after diseases of the circulatory system, was tumors (22.8%), above infectious diseases, among which includes COVID-19.2

In this context, the Spanish Group of Cancer Patients (GEPAC), the Spanish Society of Hematology and Hemotherapy (SEHH), the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) and AstraZeneca have come together with the aim of raising awareness of the need to be proactive and go to the doctor in case of possible symptoms of illness with the campaign ‘A new normality, the same cancer’ and under the motto “Cancer doesn’t wait, you shouldn’t either”.

“The pandemic has affected all types of cancer equally, but it is not the same as the delay occurring in a type of cancer in which the survival rate that exists today is high and in which there are different treatment options. (in the case of breast or prostate cancer), compared to those other types of cancer in which the average survival is lower and therefore time is running out or in those in which when it can be diagnosed, as a general rule, the stage is already very advanced, as is the case with lung or pancreatic cancer” explains Begoña Barragán, president of GEPAC.

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Dr. Ramón García Sanz, president of the SEHH, recalls the situation of special vulnerability faced by oncohaematological patients: “Several studies carried out by members of the SEHH have shown that this type of patient has been one of the most affected by the pandemic. In fact, overall mortality has been around 30% and drops to 18% in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) (commonly known as ‘bone marrow transplant’)”3.

Adapt to get back to normal

“Now it is time to return to normality in the care of cancer patients in order to guarantee screening programs, early diagnosis in an optimal time and multidisciplinary approaches”, affirms the president of SEOM, Dra. Enriqueta Felip. Also, remember that “Diagnostic delays due to the pandemic, whether due to the suspension of screening programs or due to difficulties or delays in health care, entail an extension of the tumors and, consequently, more aggressive treatments and less conservative surgeries. All this diminishes the quality of life of cancer patients and even, in some cases, may mean the loss of the opportunity to carry out a treatment with curative intent in those patients who have developed metastases”.

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“At AstraZeneca we have the ambition to contribute to eradicating cancer as a cause of death, and to achieve this we need the population not to have feelings of uncertainty or fear in this pandemic and we want to encourage them to follow their doctor’s instructions as before”, explains Marta Moreno, director of Corporate Affairs and Market Access at AstraZeneca Spain.

“Unfortunately, the outbreak of the pandemic has relegated cancer to the background and this has had a negative impact on its early diagnosis, access to the best therapeutic solutions, and therefore, the expectations of cancer patients. A cancer diagnosis cannot be affected by the pandemic, since cancer does not wait and there are new innovative therapeutic solutions that could mark the prognosis of the disease and the cancer patient must be able to access them as soon as possible”, concludes Marta Moreno.

It is essential that patients regain confidence in the safety of health circuits. Failing to address a cancer on time or skipping a check-up can be a serious long-term problem. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the population has had to adapt to a new normality that has caused care to be neglected for a pathology that is still very present and does not rest. Something that GEPAC, SEHH, SEOM and AstraZeneca insist on changing.


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