With the pandemic, 700 thousand screenings have been skipped: online the possibility of organizing a telephone medical consultation and understanding one’s own risk gradient, in addition to information on medical units
There is an invisible epidemic, that of breast cancer, which Covid has overshadowed and for which today there is a need for a solution against the clock. The numbers speak for themselves: beyond 700 thousand skipped mammography screenings in 2020 and more than 3 thousand estimated missed diagnoses, according to the latest report of the National Screening Observatory.
Free online consultations
To make up for the serious delay accumulated in the prevention and treatment of the first most diagnosed cancer in women (almost 55 thousand new cases in 2019), the Ministry of Health, together with the Breast units of the Tor Vergata Polyclinic in Rome and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, has set up the project In the bosom of health: a new online portal which provides cognitive tools on cancer prevention measures and, through the compilation of an anamnestic questionnaire, gives the possibility to users who are at greater risk of carry out a free telephone medical consultation and, if necessary, to book a follow-up visit at one of the two hospitals. Alternatively, we will contact the lady with the reference breast unit in the area. It is essential that patients contact the competent centers for adequate care. The centers are there and ready. We hope that many other structures will join this awareness project, says Claudio Buonomo, head of the Breast unit of the Tor Vergata polyclinic.
The role of prevention
Preventing breast cancer also means preserving female fertility. The information campaign of the Ministry of Health also aims at this. From the moment of cancer diagnosis up to five years later, the possibility of a pregnancy is put on hold, or in any case compromised by the therapies, and we invite the patient to cryopreserve the oocytes – explains Buonomo -. The more we do prevention, the more we will be able to find even very small tumors, 2-3 millimeters, which can be resolved with only surgery without having to subject the body to further aggressive treatments. Early examinations and care are lifesaving. Today, due to the skipped visits due to Covid, we get patients with tumors already at an advanced stage, so the road to recovery is more complex and the possibility of having children is penalized. Join the screening program and undergo periodic check-ups which are essential to reduce the onset of oncological diseases.
What is on the site
Breast self-examination is the first prevention gesture. The site insenoallasalute.it indicates how and when to do it (with the support of a video) and what are the alarm bells to watch out for: Changes in the shape of the breast, the presence of lumps, sinking of the nipple, changed appearance of the skin (orange peel effect), loss of fluid or blood from the nipple, are some elements that deserve attention. The nodules are comparable to a dense “ball”, which can be fixed or mobile. Another section of the site dedicated to the description of the different forms of breast cancer (the most common is ductal carcinoma, the lobular one represents 15 percent of cases, while tubular, papillary, mucinous or cribriform are the least frequent) and stages of the disease. Recalling that the risk of developing this cancer increases with increasing age: by 2.4 percent up to 49 years (i.e. one woman in 42), by 5.5 percent (one in 18) between 60 and 69 years and 4.7 in the 70-84 age group (one in 21). Despite being a life-threatening disease, survival five years after diagnosis, thanks to medical progress, is about 87 percent.
But the Covid pandemic could worsen the future picture. We expect mortality to increase in five to six years given the missed screenings and postponed visits in this long period of health emergency. The lockdown led to an attitude of neglect of one’s healthFor this reason, it is all the more necessary to raise awareness among women on the importance of prevention, Buonomo underlines. Which ones are they risk factors? The portal distinguishes non-modifiable conditions associated with the appearance of breast cancer, such as age and family and genetic predisposition, from the modifiable ones: of type hormonal (early menstruation and late menopause, for example), reproductive (no pregnancy or pregnancy after 30 years), dietary (such as the high consumption of alcohol and animal fats and the low consumption of vegetable fibers), metabolic (metabolic syndrome, characterized by excess body fat, high cholesterol, arterial hypertension, diabetes), and some rarer ones (such as previous diseases). Women who do not have any of these factors fall into the low-risk category, to whom breast self-examination is still recommended, at least once a month after the menstrual cycle, useful for discovering small lumps. While women between the ages of 50 and 69, who are part of the national mammography screening program (paid by the NHS), are invited to perform the test. And for those over 70, although no longer involved in the screening program, it is suggested in any case to continue the controls.
Le strutture Breast unit
The path of diagnosis, treatment, psychophysical rehabilitation, up to palliative care begins and ends within the breast units, that is the multidisciplinary breast care centers to which women with a suspicion of breast cancer must turn. The directors of the Breast units involved in the campaign, Claudio Bonomo and Giovanni Tazzioli, explain the usefulness and how these structures work and they answer questions about motherhood, prevention, recovery. The portal of the Ministry of Health offers the opportunity for all women to participate in a online questionnaire to assess the risk (low or high) to develop breast cancer. Just enter your mobile number, to which a verification code will be sent to access the compilation of the clinical history form or the appointment booking calendar on the advice of the specialist.
July 17, 2021 (change July 17, 2021 | 19:35)
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