The disruption of routine controls due to the fear of getting Covid-19 infection, the focus of resources in health institutions on preventing the pandemic cause alarm bells, especially in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Studies show that there is a 90 percent reduction in standard cancer screenings. The scary reflection of this situation is the increase in advanced stage cancers! So much so that statistical studies show that the diagnosis of advanced stage cancer has increased by 75 percent compared to the previous year. Acıbadem Maslak Hospital Medical Oncology Specialist Prof. Dr. Gökhan Demir, in the statement he made within the scope of February 4, World Cancer Day; He notes that deaths due to breast, colon and lung cancers are predicted to increase by 5-10 percent in the next 15 years. Stating that thanks to the developments in diagnosis and treatment options, there has been a 25 percent decrease in cancer deaths in the last 25 years. Dr. Gökhan Demir said, "In order to prevent cancer diagnosis and death rates from returning to previous years after the pandemic, all complaints that may be related to cancer should be applied to the hospital without wasting time and routine controls should not be disrupted." says. Medical Oncology Specialist Prof. Dr. Gökhan Demir made important warnings and suggestions.
Symptoms are ignored!
People hesitate to apply to the hospital with the fear of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the suspension of some screening programs, non-urgent operations and diagnostic procedures by health institutions in order to keep the epidemic under control causes various health problems not to be detected on time. Acıbadem Maslak Hospital Medical Oncology Specialist, who stated that adults in the general risk group do not apply to screening programs, but that most patients ignore their complaints despite serious symptoms. Dr. Gökhan Demir continues his words as follows: “In April last year, there was a decrease of almost half in the diagnosis of new cancer compared to previous years. This is very worrying. Many new cancer patients lose months to be diagnosed, leading to the diagnosis of the disease at an advanced stage. There was an increase of approximately 75 percent in the diagnosis of advanced stage cancer compared to last year. Increasing advanced stage cancers can inevitably result in decreased survival and increased cancer-related death rates. "
'Lost momentum in cancer control must be gained'
Stating that strict measures are taken against the Covid-19 virus in all healthcare facilities, and the risk of contracting the virus will be very low when going to the hospital for screening and diagnostic procedures. Dr. Gökhan Demir, “Achieving diagnosis and starting treatment without wasting time is life-saving. While our country is reopening slowly and safely, cancer screening and diagnosis should maintain its important place in standard health services. "It is necessary to prioritize the patients at the highest risk, safely investigate and regain the lost momentum in cancer control."
In our country, as in the world, there are screening programs for breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancers that are most common. Explaining that cancer screening is performed on healthy people without any symptoms, Prof. Dr. Gökhan Demir gives detailed information about these screening programs.
For the early diagnosis of breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in women, it is recommended that every woman from the age of 40 should have mammography and breast ultrasound once a year. But women who have a relative diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age or have certain genes that increase breast cancer risk (such as the BRCA genes) should start screening before age 40. Stating that regular screening with mammography continues until the age of 74, Prof. Dr. Gökhan Demir said, "Women who have a mass under the breast or armpit, with changes such as an orange peel appearance on the breast skin, and symptoms such as shrinkage or discharge from the nipple, should apply to an oncology center immediately." says.
The rate of getting prostate cancer, which is generally a slow-progressing type of cancer, is 10-12 percent. The age to start prostate cancer screening in average-risk men is generally considered to be 50. In higher-risk men with a family history of prostate cancer or known BRCA1 / 2 mutation, the onset of screening goes down to the age of 40. Stating that if a PSA value above normal is detected in the screening with PSA measurement every 1-2 years, the patient is directed for further examinations and examinations. Dr. Gökhan Demir notes that it is not recommended to start screening over the age of 70.
85-90 percent of lung cancers, which take the first place in cancer-related deaths, develop due to smoking. Exposure to smoke is also seen as an important reason for non-smokers. Since the risk does not decrease for many years after quitting smoking, a high rate of lung cancer is seen in former smokers. Stating that lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography is important for early diagnosis. Dr. Gökhan Demir, "It is known that annual low-dose computed tomography scanning in patients with a 15-pack-year smoking history, including those who quit smoking in the previous 30 years, reduces the mortality rates due to lung cancer by 25 percent." says. Even if smokers quit a while ago, a new cough is considered a suspicion of cancer. Those who have complaints such as shortness of breath, bloody sputum, chest or shoulder pain, hoarseness, weight loss, swelling in the face and neck should consult a doctor as soon as possible.
In addition to colonoscopy, there are many screening tests such as occult blood in the stool, sigmoidoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, capsule colonoscopy to detect bowel polyps and colon cancer, which are cancer precursors, before detecting them. Even if there is no complaint or risk factor, it is recommended that every adult over the age of 45 should have a colonoscopy for screening. Those who have complaints such as changes in bowel habits, recurrent diarrhea or constipation, pain and bleeding during defecation, thinning in stool calibration, bloating, abdominal pain, weight loss, or who have iron deficiency or anemia in their tests, should consult a doctor immediately and be examined for colon / rectal cancer.