According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 2030 cancer will be the leading cause of death worldwide and the number of cases will increase to 21.6 millions. Thus, it is estimated that, in Spain, one in two men, and one in three women, will be diagnosed with cancer throughout their lives.
However, preventing new cases of cancer and, therefore, increasing life expectancy, is also possible thanks to health promotion strategies (primary prevention) and early detection (secondary prevention).
In fact, it is estimated that between 30 and 50% of cancer cases can be avoided by following these methods of prevention . This includes both the acquisition of healthier lifestyle habits and the correct implementation and participation in screening programs for the population at risk.
The economic costs of cancer in Spain
On the other hand, according to the study 'The economic and social impact of cancer in Spain' prepared by Oliver Wyman for the Spanish Association Against Cancer, Early detection and prevention of healthy lifestyles could reduce total cancer costs by around 9,000 million euros.
Download the full report: «Economic and social impact of cancer in Spain »
What are screening programs?
As we said, early detection, through screening programs, is one of the fundamental pillars for cancer control. Cancer screening programs consist of performing diagnostic tests on people, in principle healthy, but who are in a risk group, to detect precancerous lesions, and thus try to improve their prognosis.
They have shown benefits, both in the decrease in the number of cases, and in mortality, mainly in breast, colon and cervical cancer, for which there are population screening. That is, organized by the health system – unlike opportunistic screening, at the request of the interested party. In the case of lung cancer, evidence is beginning to be obtained along the same lines.
Screening for breast cancer, what is it?
breast cancer is the most common tumor in women worldwide and has a special impact on women between the ages of 45 and 65.
In Spain, there is early detection of breast carcinoma since 1990, but it was in 2005 when it was implemented throughout the country, following European guidelines.
The recommendation for the breast program is the implementation of a mammogram every two years to women between the ages of 50 and 69 . However, in some regions screening at 45 years begins. Currently, the coverage of the breast cancer screening program in our country is 89.13%, according to the study ‘The economic and social impact of cancer in Spain’.
Screening of breast cancer and life expectancy
It has been shown that, thanks to breast cancer screening mortality from this disease has decreased in a significant way at least when it is performed at the age of greatest incidence (above 50 years).
The costs of breast cancer
It is estimated that, on average, a metastatic breast cancer costs almost 4 times more than a locally detected cancer . The costs of a metastatic breast cancer can exceed 200,000 euros per patient.
More information: Early detection of breast cancer
Colon cancer screening, What does it consist of?
colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, and is the one with the highest number of cases if we consider both sexes. But it is also one of the easiest to treat with an early diagnosis. At present, there are two early detection tests: the fecal occult blood test (TSOH) and colonoscopy .
The recommendation for the colon screening program is to perform a fecal occult blood test men and women aged 50 to 69 years, biennially.
This is a very simple test carried out by the person at home. The goal is to detect whether or not there is blood in the stool. If the test result is positive the study is completed with a colonoscopy to visualize the origin of the bleeding and to prevent the development of malignant tumors and / or the detection of the tumor in early stages.
More information: Detection and early diagnosis of colon cancer
Screening colon cancer and life expectancy
In recent years important advances have been made to the implementation of this screening test in Spain. Currently, the coverage of the colon cancer screening program is 66%, according to the study ‘The economic and social impact of cancer in Spain’.
It is estimated that colon cancer is exceeded in 90% of cases when it is detected in time . Thus, a study conducted in the Basque Country – one of the first communities to implement the program in 2009 – has shown an increase in 5-year survival of 23.4% in people who have participated compared to those who have not done. As key data to reach this percentage, this study points out, is to achieve a high participation of the population at risk.
The costs of colon cancer
Population screening programs in colon cancer, in addition to saving suffering and save lives, they are able to save costs to the public health system. Thus, according to the study prepared by Oliver Wyman for the Spanish Association Against Cancer, a metastatic colon cancer costs 3 times more than a locally detected cancer. The costs of a metastatic colon cancer exceed 150,000 euros per patient.
Cervix cancer screening, what is it?
Cervical cancer (CCU) is the third most common neoplasm in the world in women.
Until now cervical cancer screening in our country had been opportunistic, however, as of July 1, 2019, the autonomies have the obligation to implement population screening for cervical cancer in a maximum term of five years.
The new recommendation is to expressly invite by letter all women between the ages of 25 and 65 to take the appropriate tests. Specifically, in the population aged 25 to 34 years cytologies will be performed every three years, and those who are 35 and 65 years old will undergo a test to detect papillomavirus high-risk human . In this case, if the result is negative, it will be repeated at 5 years, and if it is positive, cytology will be done.
Cervix screening and life expectancy
The screening of women Healthy through cervical cytology has clearly demonstrated its efficacy, since its application in an adequate and systematic way in certain countries has managed to reduce the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer by 70-80%. This benefit is due to the detection of asymptomatic premalignant lesions, whose diagnosis and treatment prevents their progression to invasive carcinoma.
Lung cancer screening, is it possible?
For some time, the early detection of lung cancer with low dose tomography is proving effective in reducing mortality in groups specific high-risk
While mortality is decreasing in most cancers, lung cancer continues to increase worldwide, especially among women. In addition, the majority of lung cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage ; which makes diagnosis and treatment of the disease difficult.
Therefore, as more results are obtained, could become a key national screening program in cancer prevention together with effective strategies for smoking prevention (main risk factor).