Cancer patients should take their COVID-19 vaccine and boosters on time, advises UAE oncologist

Dubai: As the world celebrates Cancer Day today, immunocompromised patients suffering from various cancers are advised to go ahead and take their COVID-19 vaccine and boosters, in close consultation with their doctor treating.

In an interaction with Gulf Newsto mark World Cancer Day, Dr. Wessam Ahmed, Director of the Department of Hematology, Medical Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD), highlighted the challenges cancer patients faced faced at the height of the pandemic.

Dr Wessam Ahmed

“The diagnosis of cancer can be very stressful, especially in these pandemic times when cancer patients seeking chemotherapy or consultation in hospitals needed to be protected from exposure to COVID-19 in the healthcare setting. The past two years have been very difficult for all cancer patients,” said Dr. Ahmed.

Citing the reasons, Dr Ahmed said: “A cancer patient undergoing treatment has a weakened or weak immune system. Additionally, when a cancer patient contracts COVID-19, we cannot proceed with the cancer treatment protocol and must discontinue all sessions unless they recover. This can result in a loss of crucial patient time. At CCAD, we are following the strict COVID-19 protocols and guidelines issued by the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Health, while treating all of our cancer patients.

Why are the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters essential for all cancer patients?

Dr Ahmed said it was important that all cancer patients received their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters according to protocol. “Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may have weakened immune systems and may need to delay their vaccination for a few weeks. However, this can only be decided through active consultation with the oncologist treating them. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is important. In cases of cancers like lymphoma where the immune system has been compromised for years, timely COVID-19 vaccination and boosters are always important as it is better to have 60-70% protection against the virus than not have zero protection. But each patient should consult with their treating oncologist to determine the right time for vaccination.

Highlighting the case of a young individual with lymphoma, Dr Ahmed said, “This individual was unvaccinated and when he contracted COVID-19, his lymphoma treatment was delayed by almost four months. This could have caused serious failures, but luckily the individual recovered, underwent cancer treatment and responded well. Later, that person was able to take the COVID-19 vaccine and it works well for him.

Increase in cancer cases in the Middle East

Meanwhile, a new study by the Swedish Institute of Health Economics (IHE) has warned that cancer cases in the Middle East and Africa region, including the United Arab Emirates, are expected to double by 2040 due to the increasing risk posed by smoking, obesity and other poor lifestyle choices.

The IHE report was compiled in association with Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and released on World Cancer Day. It warns that newly diagnosed cancer cases could rise from 410,000 in 2020 to 720,000 by 2040, with factors such as population growth, an aging society and lifestyle changes all contributing to a faster rise in cancer rates. cancer cases in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region than anywhere else in the world.

Denial of disease causing delay in treatment

The IHE report lists factors such as low health literacy among the general population regarding early signs of cancer, fears of social stigma following a cancer diagnosis, and financial and career insecurity among expats in the country. as the main factors in the poor management of the disease.

In order to create greater awareness, the IHE aims to support a three-year campaign of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC), which is launched this year under the theme “Closing the Care Gap”.

However, while the IHE report flags cancer patients at a younger age in the MEA, it also indicates that the region’s young population could be a ‘silver lining’ in attempts to tackle the disease. .

Thomas Hofmarcher

Thomas Hofmarcher, Health Economist at IHE, said: “The number of newly diagnosed cancer cases has increased in all MEA countries, partly due to demographic changes and adverse trends such as smoking and alcohol consumption. obesity. This means that cancer is set to become the second leading cause of morbidity in MEA countries. He added that higher per capita investment in cancer care could provide better survival rates.

The top seven cancers in the UAE:

* Blood cancers which include leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma

* Gastrointestinal cancers which include abdominal cancers and colorectal cancer

* Uterine, Ovarian and Cervical Cancer

(Source: Dr. Wessam Ahmed, CCAD)

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