A few days ago, I read an article beginning this way: “A young lady was lucky enough to become part of a trial of AIRC which allowed her…. “

Lucky enough to

To make it short: the young lady was suffering from pancreatic cancer, one of the most aggressive ones. Being part of this trial allowed her not only to discover the origin of it, but also to get to know that there was an already existing treatment. Specifically, in this case, it seems that the origin was linked to a genetic variant.

This sentence still floats in my head: was lucky enough. 

We all know we need the luck to cheat death, but seeing it written down on paper makes it real and it impressed me.

Being lucky enough to be treated, to be assigned a doctor, to have a National Health care properly working or the money to address the problem in case it’s not.

Being lucky enough to identify the problem in advance and to treat it accordingly.

It’s important to keep oneself under control and even more, to be able to benefit from a well-working screening system. It’s important though not always 100% decisive. Here in Italy, many people can say “thanks” to the regional screening system, which allows for shortened timing and path, compared to the usual routine check-up. It’s fundamental to identify “the cancer problem” when it still has to flourish: detecting dysplasia before it becomes a neoplasia it’s vital.

National healthcare is sometimes able to create an efficient prevention system and I think it’s a pity not to adhere to it.

In Italy we have 3 types of screenings available:

  • Breast cancer 
  • Colon-rectum cancer
  • Uterine cancer

Usually, the NHC sends out millions of invites, precisely: in 2019 they sent out more than 3mil and they gave way to more than 5.5 million tests.

In 2020, the pandemic affected these numbers because of the pressure on the hospitals, the difficulties to access them, and the lack of doctors. More than 9 mils. Invites were sent and more than 3.5 mil tests were done.

Anyway, the percentage of those who accept the screening invites is still low, so it’s rightful to ask why? Maybe people fear these tests, maybe they are lazy or careless. It’s important to specify that the tests are not particularly invasive, they do not require hospitalization or day hospital, just an hour of our time and that’s it. Moreover, the screening is completely free.

In my opinion, to adhere to such screening is a way to love ourselves, an investment for the future (even though it needs our time only to be invested). These tests not only allow scientific research to progress, but they also make the finding of new treatments easier and gather information about the causes of cancers to make prevention easier.

There are many associations in Italy that care for research and they can be supported economically by taking part in their commercial initiatives (selling chocolates, flowers, etc) or simply donating.

But there are other ways to support them, even for free. One of these is Dreamlab, an application created by Vodafone Foundation. In this case, Vodafone Foundation has started a cooperation with AIRC (an Italian association caring for research about cancer). This cooperation aims at describing the different kinds of cells that interact with the cancer ones. To do it, it uses an application named Dreamlab which allows the research institute to use the power of our smartphone to support the computing necessary for the studies of oncology. Vodafone has put its technology at the service of “Cell Identity hunter” in cooperation with the institute of molecular oncology. Vodafone is one of the promoters, but one can adhere regardless of the mobile phone provider used.

This is an invitation not to forget how lucky we are in having an efficient screening system at our disposal. The same is with the fact we can help research in a very simple way, even when we sleep. This is because fate is not the only way we have to cheat death!

By Cinzia Costi

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