That achievement is due to three important factors. The first: many people have stopped smoking cigarettes, so the multiple types of cancer associates have ceased to be an important cause of mortality. The second: early detection programs have permeated the population and the health care systems, since, by being detected earlier, there are fewer deaths. The third: the development of better treatments, especially for breast and colon cancer.
In that sense, Biologic drugs and immunotherapy have greatly changed the prognosis for various types of cancer.
One of the most notable data in the report is that cases of cervical cancer in young women have decreased by 65% between the years 2012 and 2019.
This is a direct consequence of the vaccination campaigns against the human papilloma virus (HPV) initiated in that country more than 15 years ago. For Peru, where cancer of the cervix is the first cause of death from cancer in women, it is a very relevant and should redouble the intensity of vaccination campaigns against HPV.
Another important aspect of the report is that, despite the advances in reducing general mortality, it is noteworthy that colon cancer is still a disease that causes high mortality. This is because this type of cancer, which, according to 2013 Minsa data, affects 10 men and women every day in Peru, is a disease that requires prevention and early detection.
In this regard, despite the fact that the five-year relative survival rate for all cancers combined increased by 19 percentage points between 1970 and 2018 (from 49% to 68%), colon cancer survival increased only 12 percentage points in that same time (from 51% to 63%).
That’s a very slight variation for a type of cancer that not only has prevention, but also early detection with an annual fecal occult blood test or a colonoscopy every 5 to 10 years.
“It is striking that colon cancer is still a disease that causes high mortality.”
Since it is possible that some of these myths prevent preventive actions against this disease, let’s look at some of the most frequent ones.
- Myth 1: Colon cancer only affects people from rich countries. In reality, it affects men and women of any race and ethnic group equally. In countries like Peru, its frequency is increasing due to a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of foods rich in fat and low in fiber.
- Myth 2: Colon cancer is only caused by a poor diet. Research has shown that smoking, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle can also cause the disease.
- Myth 3: If I have no symptoms, I am colon cancer free. It is a silent and treacherous disease that develops for many years without causing any symptoms at first. Only when the cancer is advanced does it cause pain, fatigue, and loss of weight and appetite.
- Myth 4: Colon polyps are benign. 10% to 20% of polyps turn into cancer. The only way to know if a polyp is cancerous is to remove it through a colonoscopy and examine it under a microscope.
- Myth 5: Only visible blood indicates cancer. Colon polyps bleed in such a small amount that it is impossible to see it in the stool. To discover that invisible blood, those over the age of 45 should have an annual fecal occult blood test. If it is positive, a colonoscopy should be done to find out the origin of the hidden bleeding.
- Myth 6: Colon cancer is only for older people. The data indicates that, probably due to the type of diet and high prevalence of obesity, this cancer is increasing in young people.
- Myth 7: Colonoscopy is a very complicated and painful procedure. Because it is done with superficial general anesthesia, it is not painful and lasts between 20 to 30 minutes. This exam should start at age 45 and should be repeated every 5 to 10 years if normal.
- Myth 8: Colon cancer is a death sentence. If the cancer is discovered early and localized, 92% of patients are alive and disease-free five years later. In contrast, only 11% of people with advanced or metastatic cancer survive 5 years. Since more than 90% of cases appear after the age of 45, the key is early detection.
Due to the deficiencies in the availability of basic medicines against cancer, it will be more difficult to guarantee access to the latest generation medicines in Peru. That is why, knowing that most cases of cancer are discovered in an advanced and incurable state in Peru, The Minsa must commit to strengthening promotional preventive programs for cancer control in the country.
I am a highly experienced and well-connected journalist, with a focus on healthcare news. I have worked for several major news outlets, and currently work as an author at 24 news recorder. My work has been featured in many prestigious publications, and I have a wide network of contacts in the healthcare industry. I am highly passionate about my work, and strive to provide accurate and timely information to my readers.