The Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC) considers priority measure the impact of covid-19 on patients with this pathology and denounces “inequity” existing in colon cancer screening programs.
On the occasion of World Colon Cancer Prevention Day today, the AECC recalls that during the first wave of the pandemic all screening programs were suspended, “although it is observed that the activity is resuming at different rates, but always with the maximum security measures ”. In a statement, it reports that the percentage of the population not invited to participate in the screening tests for Cancer colorectal in 2020 ranged between 30% and 90% due to the covid-19.
Cancer is the leading cause of premature death between the ages of 30 and 69, a range that includes people at risk of developing colon cancer. The goal of screening is to reduce morbidity or premature mortality associated with colon cancer; early detection reduces short-term mortality by between 30% and 35%, which in Spain is equivalent to saving around 4,000 lives. Colon cancer is the tumor with the highest incidence in the country with 38,790 cases and it is the second type of cancer that causes the most deaths per year in Spain, 15,778 in 2020.
According to the Spanish Association Against Cancer, the stoppage and slowdown of screening programs are delaying the diagnosis of breast, colon and cervical cancers, which increases the chances of detecting the disease in advanced stages.
In the COVID-Cancer Plan, approved by the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System on February 24, the need is already considered, not only to maintain the screening programs, but to implement twelve other measures, among which is analyze in depth the real impact of covid-19 on cancer patients.
The screening programs were incorporated into the Portfolio of Services of the National Health System in 2013, although in some Autonomous Communities they had been developed since 2009. Its implementation has been uneven Throughout these years generating “inequities” in Spain, that is, there were people who could not access a screening program, and therefore had fewer chances of early detection, just because of living in one region or another . The latest data obtained before the pandemic are those provided by the Cancer Screening Network of 2017, where only 44.5% of the almost 12 million people at risk age (between 50 and 69 years) were covered by a colorectal cancer screening program. “The impact of the pandemic is not measured and, as contemplated in the COVID-Cancer Plan, it is necessary to have this analysis to know the real scenario in the different Autonomous Communities,” the note explains. On the other hand, it defends that all people of medium risk, that is, between 50 and 69 years old, have the right to participate in this preventive measure, which will only be guaranteed when population screening programs reach coverage close to 100%.
The president of the AECC, Ramón Reyes, points out that “all people should have the same opportunities against cancer And these opportunities begin by guaranteeing the right to participate in screening programs. Hence, it is essential that colon cancer screening programs continue despite the pandemic. ” To achieve “the true positive impact” of the screening programs, it is necessary to achieve a participation of the target population greater than 65%.
According to the AECC Observatory, colon cancer is the one with the highest incidence in Spain, ahead of breast or prostate cancer, with 38,790 cases diagnosed in 2020, and together with breast and cervix cancer, colon cancer is one of the all three that can be detected early.