Social isolation is delaying early diagnosis of breast cancer, research shows


Roberta Colodette will have a mastectomy in October. Photo: Personal archive

A survey of 1,400 Brazilians shows that 62% of women are waiting for the pandemic to end in order to resume medical appointments and routine breast cancer screening. For experts, this delay can have an impact on the disease, which is more likely to cure when detected at an early stage. According to the survey by Ibope, in partnership with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the percentage is even higher from the age of 60, reaching 73% of women.

Breast cancer is responsible for 29.7% of new diagnoses of malignant tumors in Brazil and is greater than the sum of other more common neoplasms, such as colorectal, cervical, lung and thyroid tumors. Although treatable, it killed 17,000 people in 2018.

– There are a number of impounded cases and there should be an increase in diagnoses of cases already in an advanced stage. For this reason, this is a precious October to make people seek health services – says doctor Maria Del Pilar Estevez Diz, coordinator of Clinical Oncology at the Cancer Institute of the state of São Paulo.

Although doctors and specialists understand the fear and approve the intention to distance themselves, after seven months it is important to take care of other aspects of health.

– It is understandable that they are afraid, but it is worrying because it can have a serious impact. It will not be a second wave of Covid-19, but of diseases that have gone undetected. Cancer does not quarantine – says Marjori Dulcine, medical director at Pfizer.

Who knows this well is the Human Resources manager Roberta Colodette, 42 years old. In the last week of March, when the quarantine began, she discovered a lump in the bath.

– I have a mammogram every year. If I hadn’t found anything, I would wait for the pandemic to pass – says Roberta, who suffers from aggressive breast cancer, the triple negative. Since May, he has been facing chemotherapy sessions and, in October, he will undergo mastectomy surgery: – I don’t drink, I do sports, I had children, but no one is shielded. It is a treacherous disease that if you take too long to find out it can lead to death.

To help deal with the disease and share her story with friends, family and others who needed help, she created an Instagram page (@robertacolodette).

– I was very scared. Cancer in the middle of the pandemic was very new. I suffered a lot from the effects of the chemo, but I didn’t want anyone to look at me with pity, I decided to tell everyone myself. I talked to my children, opened Insta … Everything taught me to live life better than before. I have to learn to live today, because before I went through life counting on happiness in the future – says Roberta.

Lack of indication and guidance

A quarter of women over 50 years old do not receive an indication for mammography and ultrasound. The data, obtained in a survey by Ibope with Pfizer, is worrying, because it is at this stage, precisely, that the risk for breast cancer increases: about four out of five cases occur after this age group.

In total, 25% of women do not receive adequate guidance for preventing breast cancer. The problem is greater in the younger age groups, where 5% of the total cases occur.

Many women are still unaware of the factors that can influence the development of breast cancer. Although 75% believe that the disease is related to genetic inheritance, tumors of a genetic / hereditary nature correspond to only 5% to 10% of the total cases.

There are things that cannot be changed, such as the age of the first menstruation (before age 12 is considered a risk factor) or menopause after 55. On the other hand, lifestyle can also affect the onset of the disease.


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