Today is International Cancer Day, established by the United Nations in 2000. The intent was to fight disinformation, so we went to Nikesh Jasani, M.D., medical oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology–Cypress Fairfield.
Dr. Jasani says the main impact has been in screenings and patients on active treatment. He says it includes regular screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, as well as patients who have already received a cancer diagnosis and are in treatment, which requires on going forms of tests and screenings to monitor progress.
The Covid 19 pandemic has sharply reduced the number of individuals getting screenings, diagnosis and treatment. A study by Community Oncology Alliance finds an 85% reduction of breast cancer screenings in April of 2020 during the initial closedowns, a 75% reduction in colon cancer screenings, 75% fewer prostate cancer screenings and 74% less for lung cancer. It’s created what oncologists call a ticking time bomb nightmare scenario as reduced screenings today suggest people with advanced stages of cancer being diagnosed in the years ahead.
Cancer can affect anyone of any age. It has no bias. You can be the healthiest person on the block and as susceptible as your slovenly, overweight next door neighbor, Dr. Jasani cautions. Susceptibility can be determined by environmental factors, individual triggers, hereditary, personal lifestyle choices and chance, he explains.
Dr. Jasani recommends cancer patients talk with their oncologists about when to integrate a Covid vaccine into their treatment plan. He says the health of the patient is the first priority, and says everyone should get a vaccine. It’s the only way out of this type of virus. Cancer physicians may be able to recommend to patients when and where vaccines can be obtained.
As for the misinformation that World Cancer Day was created to combat, Dr. Jasani says your doctor is your best resource: if there is something you’ve read that you’re not sure about, take it to your doctor. Ask questions.
The American Cancer Society is holding a virtual kickoff today for the Relay for Life, one of their signature events, at 7pm Central. It’s an opportunity for survivors, caregivers and volunteers to connect for 30 minutes. Last year, as Covid brought all group activities to a halt, the ACS was able to raise $65 million, and are looking for ideas to sustain the fight against cancer with 2021’s limitations.
The World Health Organization says 19.3 million people worldwide were diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and 10 million people died. New this year, according to the WHO’s Dr. Andre Ilbawi with the Department of Non-Communicable Diseases, is Breast Cancer passing Lung Cancer as the most commonly occurring form of cancer worldwide, an is the number one cause of cancer death among women. Colorectal remains third. Dr. Ilbawi says 50% of governments around the world report having to limit or disrupt cancer care because of the pandemic.
Screening and early detection remain the critical elements of cancer treatment.
photo: Getty Images