One million missed diagnoses in the EU due to the pandemic and delays: cancer cases could grow by 21% by 2040. Long Covid for one in six cancer patients
the Covid pandemic is again the theme addressed at the opening of the congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (Esmo), starting on September 16 in virtual mode. At the center of the debate of the more than 19 thousand participating oncologists from all over the world, there are the main novelties of the research, which will be presented in the next few days, but also the impact the virus has had on cancer patients and health systems. While on the one hand there remains great concern about the delays caused in terms of prevention, therapies and controls on tumors, especially in terms of cancers identified at a more advanced stage (throughout Europe missed diagnoses of cancer amount to one million from the beginning of the pandemic), on the other hand, the data collected on the long-term impact of the infection in cancer patients are less worse than expected: the Long Covid syndrome, according to the first statistics, affects one in six cancer patients.
More prevention to limit the impact of Covid
The health emergency triggered by the coronavirus continues to have negative effects on the various national health systems – he stresses Giordano Beretta, national president of the Italian Association of Medical Oncology (Aiom) – and the impact will remain in the long term on the various health systems, diverting human and economic resources from other medical-scientific fields. This is why it is even more important to launch new information campaigns aimed at citizens of all age groups: the best investment for the future is to encourage prevention as much as possible. Based on the statistics of a survey conducted by the European Commission and presented at the ESMO conference, an increase in the number of both new cancer cases, which could grow by 21% by 2040 reaching 3.7 million per year in the EU, both of the deaths that from 1.3 million in 2020 could reach 1.7 million. Furthermore, also due to lockdowns, some wrong lifestyles are even more widespread – adds Beretta -: over 10 million Italians, equal to 18% of those over 14, smoke regularly; 16% consume every day excessive doses of alcohol and as many as 35% of adults do not practice any physical activity or sport. While 46% overweight and 10% even obese. Citizens of all age groups need to reiterate the importance of healthy lifestyles and adherence to screening programs. In fact, it has now been widely demonstrated that over 40% of all cancer cases can be avoided by following simple rules such as not smoking, eating a balanced diet and avoiding excess pounds.
Adhere to early detection screening
It is equally essential to pay attention to the symptoms and to adhere to early diagnosis campaigns (free in Italy), which allow you to identify a neoplasm in the early stages, when it is easier to treat. In 2020, in Italy, they were estimated 377 thousand new cases of cancer and 3.6 million citizens live after diagnosis: thanks to the successes achieved over the years with prevention, screening campaigns and the arrival of many innovative and more effective therapies, today more than six out of 10 cancer patients recover and survival in our country higher than in the rest of Europe: with us 63% of patients live 5 years after diagnosis and the European average stops at 57%. Mammography, Pap test or Hpv-Dna test and examination for the search for occult blood in the stool save thousands of lives every year because they allow to discover the presence of an early stage tumor, when the chances of healing are greater – he points out. Saverio Cinieri, president-elect Aiom -. Last year, due to the pandemic, we had over two and a half million fewer screening tests than in 2019 and we need to start a recovery plan for these tests which are of fundamental importance. On the other hand, it is decisive that citizens seize the opportunity offered by our NHS and adhere to the invitation that comes from the ASL: screening adherence rates are still too low.
Third dose of vaccine immediately to the most fragile
Ad Esmo 2021, Italian Alessio Cortellini, oncologist at the San Salvatore Civil Hospital in L’Aquila and researcher at Imperial College London, will also illustrate the results of an international survey that collected data on almost 3 thousand cancer patients, in 35 European centers, followed between February 2020 and February 2021. Among these, 1557 patients were kept under observation after contracting Sars-CoV-2 infection and the results indicate that one in six sufferers has Long-Covid symptoms. The consequences, more frequent in the over 65s, most frequently encountered were: respiratory symptoms (50% such as shortness of breath or chronic cough), fatigue (41%) and neuro-cognitive problems (7%). The condition of Long Covid can negatively influence the trend of anticancer treatments – comments Giordano Beretta -. For this reason, the third dose of the anti-Covid vaccine must be given to cancer patients as soon as possible to avoid further complications and risks. With the third dose it is possible to enhance their protection from the virus, supporting the immune system especially of the most fragile, such as patients with blood cancer or those on chemotherapy. Finally, as every year, we recommend as Aiom to our patients, family members and caregivers flu vaccination – concludes Saverio Cinieri -. For the second year then, this immunization becomes even more essential to be able to distinguish the infection from influenza virus from that related to Covid.
September 16, 2021 (change September 17, 2021 | 15:10)