Madrid, 28 November 2019. According to the latest figures from the Spanish Medical Oncology Society (Sociedad Española de Oncología Médica, or SEOM), 7,800 new cases of stomach tumours are diagnosed per year, although fortunately this is one of the few areas where the cancer rate is going down each year. The downward trend “is largely due to different causal factors, like artificial preservatives, refrigerator use, not smoking foods to preserve them and not drinking well water. All these factors are associated with stomach cancer”, declared Doctor José María Viéitez, head of the Digestive Tumour Section of the Medical Oncology Department at the MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, during the Stomach Cancer Information Day event scheduled for today as World Cancer Day.
A patients’ association especially engaged in seeking quality of life and developing therapies for all stages of stomach cancer
The event was organised by the Association of Patients Against Stomach Cancer and Gastrectomy Patients (Asociación de pacientes contra el Cáncer Gástrico y Gastrectomizados, or ACCGG), with the cooperation of MD Anderson Madrid and Adventia. It was chaired by Madrid’s regional deputy minister for Health Humanisation, José María Antón. Doctor Viéitez seized the opportunity to stress that having learned to eliminate the Helicobacter pylori bacterium has also helped bring down the gastric tumour rate year after year. “The great thing about eliminating this bacterium is that we can shut down an agent that produces the symptoms of heartburn, and it’s a cause of neoplasms, too,” asserted the doctor.
During the event, which gave patients, health practitioners, the pharmaceutical industry and the health authorities the chance to come together as a team, one goal was to provide information on the key points of the disease, its impact on health and today’s treatments for gastric tumours, which mainly affect men (around 4,800 men in 2019, as opposed to 3,000 women) over 65 years old.
A project drawing on personal experience
“Five years ago I was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and after surgery I felt completely defenceless”. So began the journey of Pilar Ruiz, president of the ACCGG. The association was created to help patients and their families by providing them with information on their disease and how to cope with it. “Psychological support is very important, and that’s why our association makes psycho-oncologists available to patients and to their loved ones”, Pilar declared.
Some of the shortcomings the ACCGG is battling include the lack of a unified protocol for following up on a patient who has undergone a gastrectomy (surgical removal of the stomach), the lack of specialists for coping with the after-effects of the disease, support in research and genetic testing for patients who have certain risk factors and a lack of information on how the patient’s life is going to change.
“We’re very proud of the hard work and effort Pilar Ruiz has put into creating the ACCGG. From the start, Adventia’s philosophy has been to help find solutions for improving patients’ quality of life. It was clear to us that we had to get involved with what she was trying to do, for herself and for society. To us, her success confirms that our model of listening to patients works”, states Doctor Tamara Casañas, director of Adventia’s Medical Department.
One of the most touching points of the day came when Sergio Pachón, former professional footballer and ACCGG ambassador, took the podium. Pachón came to share his personal story with the more than fifty people attending the event. “When they asked me about the idea of being this project’s ambassador, I was all for it,” the footballer declared. “I have close-up knowledge of the whole process a person goes through, together with everybody who cares about them, when they're diagnosed with this kind of disease, and there couldn’t be a better approach than creating the association. We’ll fight side by side to raise awareness of the project and bring it to all those people who aren’t getting clear, real information. We’ll try and get institutions involved, because, like our motto says, #WEARENOTINVISIBLE”, concluded Pachón.
Family history, a risk factor in this disease
Family history is a major risk factor. People who have a parent, sibling or child with stomach cancer stand at a greater risk of the disease, probably because they share a common exposure profile. In addition, certain hereditary genetic disorders, like hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, Lynch syndrome, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and familiar adenomatous polyposis can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
Another risk factor is race or ethnic origin. Black, Hispanic and Asian people are the most predisposed to develop gastric tumours. Also, having undergone stomach surgery or having pernicious anaemia (a severe reduction of red blood cells that happens when the stomach can’t absorb vitamin B12 correctly) or achlorhydria (lack of hydrochloric acid in gastric juices) also increases a person’s predisposition to gastric tumours.
About the ACCGG
The Stomach Cancer and Gastrectomy Patients’ Association was created on 31 January 2018. It is Spain’s first association of patients against stomach cancer. Even though it is a national organisation, it provides international coverage due to the vast amount of misinformation there is about the after-effects of stomach cancer and the way patients should follow up after a gastrectomy.
Our association makes help available to patients and their loved ones in the form of psycho-oncological support and legal advice. We’ve participated in a number of projects to raise awareness of our disease and the shortcomings in the health field, so we can find solutions to build a better quality of life. For more information, visit www.accgg.es.