Life ‘hangs a thread’ for Italian cancer patients in a coronavirus crisis Coronavirus outbreak | Instant News

Since the coronavirus epidemic hit Italy, Francesca Masi feels her life has been hanging by a rope. He was diagnosed myelofibrosis, a rare bone marrow cancer, in 2016 and scheduled to have a transplant this month, but now worries it will be delayed because the country is handling a pandemic.

Access to thousands of cancer patients who need chemotherapy, scanning, transplantation and surgery becomes difficult, if not impossible, in an Italian Covid-19 emergency.

Across the country, dozens of cancer-specific wards and hospitals have been changed to treat coronavirus, while others are closed after medical staff and patients are infected. There are now fewer beds in the intensive care unit for cancer patients.

“At the beginning of my diagnosis, I underwent another treatment successfully, but because my condition worsened, transplantation was my only choice. So being stuck in this situation leaves me living in a state of constant anxiety, “said Masi, who lives and works in Pontedera, in the province of Pisa. She is 46 years old and mother of a 10-year-old boy. “I now face the risk of death, which is unfair, because my doctor finally found two foreign donors whose marrow is 100% compatible with mine.” Restrictions on international flights to stop the spread
coronavirus means marrow from foreign donors is at risk of not arriving in Italy.

Research led by Viola Codice, a charity that supports pancreatic cancer patients, and is seen exclusively by the Guardian, found that out of 500 patients, mostly breast or pancreas for chemotherapy or radiotherapy was postponed for 24% (11% without an arranged date), while 64% of the procedures surgery is postponed indefinitely. More than half had follow-up appointments that were rescheduled.

Dozens of patients and doctors who spoke with the Guardian feared that restrictive measures to limit the virus restricted access to appropriate medical care for cancer patients, who also representing 17% of deaths from the Italian corona virus, according to the latest research.

Francesca Pesce has pancreatic cancer. ‘The patient is afraid of contracting the virus in the hospital. Hospitals are forced to cancel appointments because oncologists help in emergencies. “ Photo: Flyer

Francesca Pesce, 54, a professional translator and member of the Viola Codice, has lived with metastatic pancreatic cancer for almost three years. This week he will leave Rome for follow-up in Milan, one of the cities hardest hit by the virus.

“At least I have this option, which no one else has,” he said. “On the one hand, cancer patients are afraid of contracting the virus in the hospital, so they neglect their care; on the other hand, hospitals were forced to cancel their appointments because many oncologists and anesthesiologists had been transferred to other wards to assist in the Covid-19 emergency. “

Paolo Ascierto, an oncologist at the Pascale hospital in Naples now treating coronavirus patients, said changing the cancer ward to a Covid-19 unit could be risky. “I understand emergencies, but we must not forget that cancer patients need special and special care. There are special conditions, such as patient follow-up, which can be managed safely using an online consultation to monitor patient progress.

“But there are other conditions, such as metastatic patients, which must be prioritized, because a lack of constant attention can mean the difference between life and death.”

In Ortona, Abruzzo, protests erupted following the announcement by the local authorities the only hospital in the region that specializes in the treatment of female cancer is fully converted to treat Covid-19 patients.

When the cancer ward is functioning, certain diagnostic procedures, such as endoscopy, may be limited, and decreased blood donation limits surgical options. “At present, only urgent surgical procedures are performed,” Pesce said. “And even urgent procedures are now blocked, due to lack of blood due to a coronavirus emergency.”

Closing air routes to and from Italy also makes it almost impossible for thousands of cancer patients to access care in other European hospitals.

Alessandra Capone has been suffering from breast cancer for 10 years.
Alessandra Capone has been suffering from breast cancer for 10 years. “You can protect yourself from the corona virus by staying at home, but cancer does not follow quarantine or decree.” Photo: Flyer

Alessandra Capone, 47, a dancer, feminist and human rights activist, has lived with breast cancer for 10 years. In 2015 the disease spread to his liver and lymph nodes and last year he began a series of treatments at the University Hospital in Frankfurt with only 5% of his liver cancer being free. He now faces great difficulty traveling to Germany.

“I contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation but the channel was always busy and I could not talk to anyone. Then I contacted the Italian consulate in Frankfurt. They told me that I needed a number of certifications to travel to other countries, even for health reasons. Not to mention that in Germany very few hotels accept bookings, mainly from Italy, during this emergency. This is very stressful. “

However, for the first time, the Italian government last week allowed air force flights to Turkey to be secured hemopoietic stem cells from donors to a two-year-old boy whose condition worsened.

Travel is also limited in Italy, where patients from Sicily, Puglia and Calabria often undergo treatment and surgery in richer Veneto and Lombardy, which is one of the most severely affected areas in the country for Covid-19.

Grazia De Michele, 39 years old. a blogger and researchers in medical history, living in Foggia, in Puglia, and have been living with breast cancer since 2010. A few months ago, her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “My mother should have had a CT scan in March to see if the chemotherapy she was undergoing was successful, but the treatment was delayed,” he said. “I should have endured oophorectomy, and my operation was also postponed. “

Grazia De Michele has breast cancer.
Grazia De Michele has breast cancer. ‘My mother should have a CT scan to see if the chemo works. My operation was also postponed. “ Photo: Flyer

“You have to imagine what it’s like for cancer patients,” Capone said. “Many live in conditions of constant anxiety, with fear of death. The situation caused by a corona virus emergency has put them under enormous psychological and physical pressure. You know, you can protect yourself from the corona virus by staying at home, but it’s not the same as cancer. Cancer does not follow quarantine dictates or decisions. It goes on, in war and in peace. “

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