Cancer, a disease affected by COVID-19

  • During COVID-19, the diagnosis of new tumors has been reduced by 30-40%.
  • Mortality can increase by 6-13% if treatment is delayed by one month.
  • In Spain, during 2020, cancer has been the third cause of mortality, with 20.4% of deaths. Thus, it has surpassed deaths due to cardiovascular diseases and infectious diseases, among which COVID-19 stands out.

During the last year, COVID-19 has had indirect effects on other pathologies, including cancer. Fear of contagion has led to a delay or cancellation of regular check-ups for many patients, which has led to a delay in the diagnosis of new diseases. More specifically, during this coronavirus year, diagnoses of new tumors have been reduced by 30% to 40%. This added to a delay in surgical interventions and other treatments due to hospital collapses. Taken together, these facts have had a direct impact on the population affected by this disease, decreasing tumor treatment and survival, as well as the psychological well-being and quality of life of patients.

When there is a delay in the diagnosis of cancer, there is a risk of detecting the tumor at an advanced stage of the disease, thus increasing the chances of metastasis or spread of the cancer, which endangers the other organs of the body. In addition, mortality can increase by 6-13% if cancer treatment is delayed by one month. For example, when the treatment of breast cancer is delayed by 8 weeks, mortality can increase by 17% and if it is delayed by 12 weeks, the increase can be 26%. In this sense, the most affected cancers are the following: breast, head and neck, colorectal, bladder, lung and cervix, accounting for 44% of the cancers diagnosed worldwide.

In Spain, cancer is one of the main causes of mortality. More specifically, and according to the report prepared by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), in 2020, cancer was the third leading cause of death with a rate of 20.4% of deaths, surpassing mortality rates due to cardiovascular diseases and infectious diseases within which we can find the COVID-19.

This February 4, on the occasion of the World Cancer Day, Dr. Escarlata Lopez, medical director of GenessisCare, reminds us that “we must not stop screening and continue screening, because coronavirus is a serious disease, but so is cancer if it is not detected early and treated in time. Since the beginning of the pandemic our main objective has been to ensure the safety of our patients and our professionals. To this end, we have implemented all the necessary measures and put in place a safe protocol against COVID-19.” Among the measures adopted by GenessisCare are the reduction of non-essential personnel, as well as the establishment of strict hygiene protocols and telephone consultations. In addition, a telephone number has been set up so that oncology patients can receive information from professionals if they have any questions. Dr. Lopez comments that “in relation to treatments, we have reduced the number of sessions with the same effectiveness as longer treatments, whenever possible and depending on the situation of each patient. At this time it is essential that all specialists work together and seek the best solution for cancer patients, because cancer does not stop.

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GenessisCare has three innovative radiotherapy treatments that have improved the health and quality of life of breast cancer patients. These are DIBH, SGRT without tattoos and FAST Breast.

On the one hand, DIBH makes it possible to treat breast cancer, protecting the heart to reduce the chances of subsequent heart disease. On the other hand, SGRT or tattoo-free surface-guided radiation therapy offers accurate precision in patient repositioning from the treatment planning CT. In this way, the radiation stops if the patient moves out of range, thus avoiding tattoos on the patient’s skin. This has been an important advance from a psychological point of view, because it has allowed no oncological marks to remain on the patient’s skin. Finally, FAST Mama carries out the treatments through 5 sessions with the same results as the standard treatment of 15 sessions. Together, the three innovative techniques can be combined to achieve a breast treatment in 5 sessions, protecting the heart and avoiding tattoos.

With regard to prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer in men, there is a treatment known as SBRT or spacer stereotactic body radiation therapy. It is a treatment that is carried out in 5 days, when usually between 28 and 30 sessions are needed. In addition, it is accompanied by a spacer, which protects the rectum from radiation, as well as reducing possible effects such as sexual, intestinal or urinary dysfunction.

Finally, with respect to non-melanoma skin cancer, there is the high precision VMAT radiotherapy technology, known as volumetric modulated arc therapy. This is a technique for those cases in which the tumor is located in extensive areas of skin, in areas that are difficult to access or when the patient’s characteristics do not allow surgery.