A new and optimistic perspective of cancer was brought up during last week’s Milenio Group forum “Cancer: the good, the new, the revolutionary”. Representatives of leading cancer research and treatment institutions met to discuss the recent improvements on services and treatments. The group of experts agreed that a cooperative work between patients, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and public and private institutions will usher in a promising future in the battle against this chronic disease.
“Talking about cancer is no longer talking about death,“ said Dr. Abelardo Meneses, Director General of the National Cancerology Institute (INCan). The adoption of public policies that promote prevention and early diagnosis has reduced fatal outcomes and now there is more hope of recovery than 15 years ago. Meneses mentioned that during the last decade, the mortality rate for cervical cancer has decreased by 40 percent and that thanks to early diagnosis of breast cancer, 80 percent of women extend their survival rate to five years.
Dr. Cynthia Villarreal of Monterrey’s Zambrano Hellion Hospital mentioned that the growing specialist community is an advantage for diagnosing and treating cancer. “Before there we were not enough oncologists in the country. Now we are more than 500 and most of us are prepared specialists.” It is now possible to create multidisciplinary teams of different specialists that could offer more precise cancer diagnosis and personalized treatments.
One of the main concerns highlighted by the team of experts was how geographical limitations present an obstacle for cancer treatment. According to Dr. Meneses, INCan can only reach 8 percent of cancer patients in the country. Berta Aguilar, founder and president of Fundación Cimab against breast cancer, said it is very difficult to reach communities when medical centers don’t have enough supplies to diagnose.
Lourdes Vega, Director of Teleton´s Children Hospital (HITO), added that many families have to travel long distances just to get a test done, which slows the diagnosis and treatment process. She mentioned the importance of training doctors and nurses who work in the first level of attention at small medical centers so they could identify better cancer symptoms.
Dr. Meneses mentioned that between 40 and 45 percent of cancers can be prevented, highlighting the need to fight the risk factors with healthy habits like avoiding tobacco, exercising regularly and having a healthy diet.