World Cancer Day Celebrated at Hospital da Luz Lisboa

World Cancer Day (February 4) was, once again, celebrated at Hospital da Luz Lisboa with a symposium open to the public, an event that counted with the presence of over 150 participants, mostly patients and ex-patients followed at this hospital’s Oncologic Centre, which accompanied by family and friends completely filled the auditorium.

The initial part of the symposium was dedicated to the prevention and early diagnosis of the oncologic disease, Professor José Luís Passos Coelho, the coordinator of Hospital da Luz Lisboa Oncologic Centre, starting by saying that in view of the increase in population life expectancy and cancer typically being an aging disease, that is sufficient to lead to a rise in the number of new cases.

In spite of it, José Luís Passos Coelho stated that we know now more about the mechanisms of this disease, which translates into great progress in the fight against it and into better therapeutic results, often allowing to turn cancer into a chronic disease, when the cure is not possible.

Tamara Milagre, president of Evita, an association that supports altered genes bearers associated with hereditary cancer, talked about the need to raise the awareness of society for the risk of hereditary cancer and about the role of this association in the improvement of life quality of patients and families affected by hereditary cancer.

Still within the scope of the session dedicated to prevention and diagnosis, namely about what to do and when to act on oncologic disease, several physicians from Hospital da Luz Lisboa talked about incidence, risk factors and prevention in breast, colon, uterus, lung and skin cancers.

Thus, Paulina Viana Lopes, surgeon-general, talked about breast cancer, the number one cancer in women, with 5000-6000 new cases every year. Primary prevention, for this doctor, involves regular physical activity, weight control and body vigilance (breast palpation and mammography), especially after the age of 40.

On the other hand, Luísa Caldas Lopes, dermatologist responsible for the Skin Cancer and Melanoma Centre of Hospital da Luz Lisboa, besides referring the several types of cutaneous cancer, alerted participants for moles where alterations in colour, appearance, size or shape require surveillance by an experienced dermatologist, in order to early detect the existence of an oncologic disease. Early treatment, stated Luísa Caldas Lopes, allows cure in most melanoma cases.

Gynecologic tumors and, in particular uterine cancer, were themes of the dissertation by Fernando Igreja, gynaecologist-obstetrician at Hospital da Luz Lisboa, which alerted for the fact that this type of cancer, caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), is sexually transmitted. Therefore, vaccination is determinant, as also cervical cytology (Papanicolaou smear) once a year, after the beginning of active sex life.

Margarida Felizardo, the coordinator of Lung Cancer Centre at Hospital da Luz Lisboa, stated that this is the most lethal cancer worldwide. The relationship between smoking and lung cancer is inescapable, whether active or passive. Smoking is the most important risk for lung cancer, being responsible for about 80 percent of cases in men and 50 percent in women.

Early detection, valorisation of symptoms that can be associated to smoking (such as cough, for instance) and screening through low-dose computed tomography, are measures that can contribute to reduce mortality, although the best prevention is not smoking or stop smoking. To help in this process, Hospital da Luz Lisboa offers a consultation of smoking dishabituation, as mentioned the same doctor.

Miguel Bispo, gastroenterologist from Hospital da Luz Lisboa Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy Centre, talked about colonoscopy as the most effective early detection method for colon and rectum cancer, which should be a general screening process for everyone over the age of 50, when there is no family history of this kind of oncologic disease or intestinal polyps. 

Furthermore, this kind of lesions, which can be precursory to colon cancer, can be removed at the time of colonoscopy. But prevention, according to this doctor, starts with a correct diet, which must include fibre (fruits and vegetables), and regular physical exercise.

The role of diet in cancer was theme of the dissertation by Cristina Gonçalves, nutritionist at Hospital da Luz Lisboa, which talked about the benefits of nutrition in the fight against cancer, stressing the importance of a balanced diet as basis of a healthy lifestyle and means of prevention of many types of cancer.

To avoid the consumption of foods with refined sugars, salt, processed meats and transformed foods or alcoholic beverages, privileging fresh foods (fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts), and combat obesity and sedentarism are ways of preventing cancer. In the case of oncologic patients, the nutritionist stressed the importance of following a good diet to reinforce the immune system and consume nutrients allowing to endure treatments and improve the prognostic.

After rather clinical themes, the symposium counted with the testimony of actor Gonçalo Diniz, which reported his experience as oncologic patient – he had testicular metastatic cancer, now in remission phase – and the strategies he used to deal with the disease and endure treatment, which included surgery and chemotherapy. The actor highlighted all the support he had, from the part of the hospital, where he was treated and is still followed-up, and from family – which he considered fundamental –, friends and his own will to overcome the disease.

Also inspiring was the dissertation by father Vasco Pinto de Magalhães, a Jesuit religious man. The clergyman started by saying that the title of his dissertation (Spirituality, contributions in view of adversities in disease) was rather reductive, for spirituality is not simply religious or psychologic: “spirituality does not serve simply in hard moments, it serves all life. It is a form of guidance, a form of life.”

Vasco Pinto de Magalhães spoke also of individualism and the temptation of self-sufficiency, which pervade contemporary society and reduce spirituality to the dimension of the disease, when spirituality is, above all, to live positively with the disease.

The symposium included also dissertations by psychologist Catarina Rivero, which talked about family and resilience bonds, and Mark Mekelburg, external education coordinator of Operação Nariz Vermelho, which talked about the importance of humour and animated the audience with an active presentation, counting with the collaboration of all participants.