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“Controlling cancer is a close and attainable milestone” Isabel Oriol, president of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC).  The Spanish Association Against Cancer has turned 62. What are its objectives now?

The AECC has a very specific mission: to reduce the impact of this illness – better yet, these illnesses, as they are more than 200 types – in people and the society. And it does it through tools which are not strictly medical, because, when someone is diagnosed with cancer, this affects the physical state, of course, but also the psychological, emotional, familial, social, professional, financial and spiritual ones… It affects all facets of the individual ad that is where we come in, supporting and accompanying cancer patients, and their families, through the entire process, with medical orientation, psychological attention, social support, flats and homes, accompaniment… We look after the person to person relationship. Another priority is the awareness in prevention and early detection. Information for citizens is truly important, as there 30% of cancers could be avoided with adequate prevention. In unavoidable cases, such as breast, colon and uterine cancer, adequate information allows for early detection and thus, an improved prognosis.

Cancer research in Spain is cutting-edge and Spanish oncologists participate in major studies that determine global clinical practice. The AECC is one of the largest benefactors if this work.

Always. Research is the only thing that will end cancer, we must guarantee its funds and aid. All advances produced in the last 20 years translated to an increase in the survival rate, from a 40% global survival to over 65%… In some types of cancer, such as breast cancer, the rate surpasses 90%. Yet, the important things is that we are a aid channel for research through which society at large and companies, offer invaluable help. Companies are increasingly joining this cause and the AECC offers a sort of “generic brand” which guarantees that their financial aid will be destined 100% to research, concrete projects, and patients and their families.

One of these companies is Solán de Cabras, which, through their collaboration – the Pink Bottle – the AECC amasses minutes of “Psychological Attention”, essential for our work.
Almost 50% of people diagnosed with cancer need psychological support, because, as previously mentioned, it impacts all facets of their lives, creates anxiety, depression and can hinder their approach to treatment and thus affect its results. So it’s truly important to provide this assistance as soon as possible so as to avoid graver consequences. And not only to patients, but to their families as well, who are also experiencing alterations in their life projects and need to face and live through the experience with the utmost quality of life.

How has the perception of cancer evolved in Spanish society?

Our data suggests that the majority of the population still states that their biggest fear, the illness most feared, is cancer. The word still carries a stigma. However, nowadays, cancer is practically a curable disease in the majority of cases and can become chronic in others. Cancer can no longer be associated with death, not at all, especially knowing there are hundred of types of cancer, with diverse medical profiles and an enormous and ever-growing survival rate. This is as true as saying that there are still some types of cancer which pose a challenge and on which we must work intensely for prevention, early detection and research in order to reach a better prognosis.

The message regarding healthy habits may have become trivial due to excessive repetition. Could you share your vision of this message?

The message is so simple that is has, in fact, become trivial. I can only think that the ideal is to have a normal, healthy life, based on healthy habits that make people feel better on all levels, physical and psychological. The body will be grateful and, in some cases, with thanks us by avoiding certain illnesses, not only cancer.

Is tobacco still the AECC’s dragon?

Tobacco is directly responsible for over 20% of cancer types and, for example, in the case of lung cancer, 80% is linked to its consumption. Without that factor, it would be a minor and rare illness. But it is also related to bladder, laryngeal, and oral cancer…The AECC recommends that whoever does not smoke, should not start, and whoever is a smoker should turn to the resources available in order to quit – we offer free courses – as smoking is not a habit, its a dependency, smoking is a dependent illness and we must help the smoker in any event.

Can you see a time in which cancer will be completely controlled?

Yes, controlling cancer is a close and attainable milestone. And being able to turn the most problematic cases into a chronic illness, with which the patient could live with, would be like diabetes.

Cancer is an illness of life itself, it comes from the increase in the life expectancy of the global population and its evolution. It is a genetic illness, not hereditary, meaning that there are flaws in the genes and those flaws are the subject of the medical research. What we envision is that everything curable will be cured, everything preventable will be prevented and everything inevitable will be detected in order to make it chronic and guarantee quality life for patients.

Text Bárbara Vidal
Photography Lidia Estepa

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