Lung cancer is fought with research and awareness

Lung cancer is fought with research and awareness

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Lung cancer has become the third most frequent tumor in Spain, both in men and women, being the leading cause of death from cancer, reaching an approximate figure of 22,000 deaths per year. With the aim of raising awareness and making visible the seriousness of this tumor and its needs, from a regional perspective in the area of ​​Murcia, the Spanish Lung Cancer Group, the biopharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb and the newspaper La Opinion organized last Thursday 7 July, a table of experts in which the main issues addressed were the importance of prevention, the relevance of early diagnosis, access to personalized medicine and innovative therapies, the future of research and the needs and perspective of the patients. This discussion table, held at the facilities of the Murcian newspaper and moderated by its editor specializing in health, Ana García, included the participation of Silverio Ros, oncologist at the Virgen de la Arrixaca Hospital; José Antonio Macías, head of the Thoracic Tumor Unit at the Morales Meseguer and Reina Sofía hospitals; Silvia Martínez, coordinator of Prevention Programs of the Spanish Association Against Cancer in the Region of Murcia; Sonia Abellán, psychologist from the Psycho-oncology Service of the Spanish Association Against Cancer in the Region of Murcia; and José Jesús Guillén, general director of Public Health of the Region of Murcia.

The advances in medicine in recent years have provided a path of hope for thousands and thousands of patients affected by lung cancer who are now seeing how technological development and research work translate into saved lives. One of the main risk factors for ending up with lung cancer, tobacco, is tackled by the Spanish Association Against Cancer with multiple awareness projects. Among them stands out ‘Spaces without smoke’, «in which work is being done so that the spaces that are for public use in the open air, in which smoking is not prohibited by law, are marked as smoke-free spaces. It is a joint effort with the municipalities”, says Silvia Martínez, coordinator of Prevention Programs of the AECC in the Region of Murcia.

Oncologist Silverio Ros also pointed to smoking as the main cause of suffering from lung cancer. “Between 80 and 85% of our patients are smokers. He also stressed the importance of the moment in which lung cancer is diagnosed, since then the offer of treatments varies. For example, from stage 3 (locally advanced without metastasis) it is much more difficult to offer surgery. “In the last 10-15 years we have experienced a revolution in the treatment of lung cancer, a more personalized treatment in a greater percentage of patients. But unfortunately, science goes much faster than bureaucracy and drug approval,” commented the oncologist at the Virgen de La Arrixaca Hospital, who also encouraged patients to ask if clinical trials are being carried out in or near their hospitals in which fit, adding the need to invest in primary prevention and equity in diagnosis throughout the Region of Murcia.

Screened against lung cancer to guarantee greater success in treatments

Health specialists and the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), along with other institutions, encourage the inclusion of mass screening among certain population groups (mainly among heavy smokers) in health agendas with the aim of being able to detect cases of lung cancer during the initial stages, thus guaranteeing greater success in later treatments. Screenings are currently being carried out for breast, colon and cervical cancer, although some of them do not yet cover the entire territory of the Region of Murcia, and are in the process of expansion. It is necessary to go further and extend these population screenings to other types of tumors, such as those of the prostate, and in this case, those of the lung.

One of the approaches on the table in this regard is the implementation of screening for the prevention and control of lung cancer, population studies that would focus on heavy smokers, who are precisely the population group with the highest risk of developing it ( between 80 and 85% of patients suffering from lung cancer in the Region of Murcia are smokers). This expansion of the screening programs must have the support of the Ministry of Health, which after its approval would give the green light to the work of each Autonomous Community. It should be noted that lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in Spain, estimating more than 22,000 deaths from this cause each year.

The value of prevention

Cancer screenings are essential to discover the disease when there is still nothing, when the person has not yet manifested symptoms, since when the patient begins to notice the slightest, they should go to their family doctor to indicate the steps to follow or the studies and analyzes that must be submitted to confirm or rule out the disease.

The population screenings were also presented at the panel of experts by José Jesús Guillén, who added that “evidence is still lacking” in this regard. With all this, in Spain we have a report (screening report) in which all the Autonomous Communities participate, which study what screenings can be introduced in the population, and specifically in the Region of Murcia, since 1983 a registry of tumors that allows to see the evolution of this disease. The Director General of Public Health of the Region of Murcia also highlighted the Health Education Plan in Schools, which works to make young people aware of the dangers of smoking. “The earlier you have contact with tobacco, the more likely you are to become addicted to it,” added Guillén.

For his part, Dr. José Antonio Macías highlighted personalized treatments and the arrival of immunotherapy as the great milestones of recent years in this field. “Immunotherapy has changed the pattern of patients in terms of chances of survival. By activating our defenses to act against the tumour, the natural history of the disease is radically modified”. Macías also added that “an attempt should be made not to treat all patients the same, but each one based on the molecular genetic characteristics of their tumor. The normal thing is to carry out a series of genetic studies of the tumor to see what is the specific alteration that has originated them, ”explained the head of the Thoracic Tumor Unit of the Morales Meseguer and Reina Sofía hospitals, who also commented on the benefits of multidisciplinarity , with which radiologists, oncologists, molecular biologists and psychologists work hand in hand.

And precisely psychology was the other major topic discussed at the table of experts, in charge of one of the psychologists of the AECC Psycho-oncology Service in the Region of Murcia. “The oncological diagnosis is a brutal impact on an emotional level. During that moment, disbelief, uncertainty and fear are usually present, “said Sonia Abellán. In addition, she highlighted the therapy groups offered by the AECC to work on meditation, self-care, stress and anxiety management, focused on both patients and family members.

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