World Cancer Day 2021: The importance of maintaining the healthcare system during COVID-19
by Ángel Barrera, February 4, 2021
Today we are celebrating World Cancer Day, a day that is dedicated to commemorating the fight against this significant disease that, as of today, continues affecting millions of people in the world every year.
In Spain, it is estimated that the number of new cancer cases in 2021 will grow to 276,239, and to approximately 30 million around the world in 2040. Currently, the highest incidence rates are for breast cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer, according to “Spanish 2021 Cancer Statistics,” which is the annual report from the Spanish Society of Oncology Medicine (SEOM, in Spanish). These data reflect, again, the significant impact of this disease and the need to continue working on research and treatment, even more important this year due to COVID-19.
From the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has affected not only those suffering from that disease, but also patients who have other diseases, among them cancer, with impacts on their diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. In fact, according to a report on the impact of the first wave on hospital care for oncology patients, carried out by various scientific societies and the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC, in Spanish), the number of new cancer diagnoses decreased 21% during the lockdown, and the number of patients seen in outpatient units decreased an average of 14%.
In addition, studies are being carried out on the psychological and social impacts that the pandemic is having on these patients who are suffering significant emotional impacts (anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness) and socioeconomic effects like challenges buying food and making housing payments. This was discussed in an interview in “La Verdad” with Toñi Galián, an AECC psycho-oncologist, who stated that the impacts are due to factors like the lockdowns and the fear of infection, among others.
Trying to reduce all these effects as much as possible, the oncology programs have adapted the care and follow-up for their patients over the past months, both in and out of the hospital. They have implemented new methods and used technological tools to carry out telephone consults, telematic visits, electronic pharmacy prescriptions, and the dispensing of medications at home, as explained by Álvaro Rodríguez-Lescure, president of the Spanish Society of Oncology Medicine (SEOM), in “Redacción Médica”. These approaches have helped to mitigate the reduction in visits and maintain the healthcare process.
Because of all that, this year’s World Cancer Day has a special relevance, as do the awareness campaigns that have been initiated to alert people to the importance of continuing their medical evaluations and maintaining contact with their medical professional. To achieve this, now more than ever, we continue to lean on technology to ensure the quality of the healthcare process.