According to specialists at Quirónsalud Alicante and Valencia, since the state of alarm began, the fear of going to the emergency room or consulting a specialist has delayed the diagnosis and treatment of major diseases such as appendicitis, cholecystitis or diverticulititis, which currently present more advanced conditions requiring more complicated surgery.
Among the digestive disorders most affected during the confinement period was colorectal cancer. The delay in performing colonoscopies has prevented these kinds of tumours from being diagnosed early, which leads to a delayed surgical treatment with a poorer prognosis. (Dr. Blas Flor-Lorente, head of Digestive Surgery and Surgical Oncology at Quirónsalud Hospital in Valencia)
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in Europe and the first in digestive cancer.
Colorectal cancer screening programmes are key as a method for improving survival data, so mortality from delay may be higher than that caused by Covid-19. This is particularly important in the area of digestive system as one in three cancer-related deaths is caused by digestive diseases. (Dr. Pedro Bretcha, head of Digestive Surgery and Surgical Oncology at Quirónsalud Alicante and Torrevieja Hospitals)
Some forecasts suggest that deaths due to delayed diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients will lead to more years of life lost than the virus itself.
In the UK it is estimated that every week about 2,500 people are not being diagnosed due to lack of referral to specialists and another 400 are not being diagnosed through population-based screening. (Dr. Bretcha)
Dr. Flor-Lorente, advises patients who present rectal bleeding, alterations when going to the bathroom (diarrhea or constipation) sustained over time, swelling or abdominal pain, as well as any other pelvic or abdominal ailment that they had not perceived before, to consult a specialist for an assessment.
Surgical operations with all the safety measures
The surgical departments of Quirónsalud Torrevieja and Valencia hospitals have adapted to the new reality and adopted new safety measures for both the patient and the surgical care personnel.
All patients who are going to be operated for any procedure go through a rigorous epidemiological and clinical screening, as well as a PCR test prior to the operation to rule out an active infection. If there is any doubt, an additional study such as a chest CT scan and blood tests are carried out.
In scheduled surgeries with positive PCR, the operation will be suspended and will be performed when the patient is fit and has overcome the infection. If surgery is urgent, a serological test for checking antibodies generated against the virus as well as a chest CT scan are performed prior to surgery. If the patient is positive, if an effective alternative to surgery exists, it will be chosen in order to avoid complications in the post-operative period. If this is not possible, all measures will be taken to carry out the procedure safely.