For decades it was “the bad bad”. Fear, embarrassment, even shame were so great in front of the diagnosis of a tumor that people did not even say the name. And least of all there were faces known to the general public willing to tell about their illness. Today things have finally changed and Federico Leonardo Lucia, aka Fedez, is the symbol of a positive cultural revolution: young, famous, beautiful and happy, he did not hide the disease when he was diagnosed last March 2022 and called it with his name, sharing the various stages of his care path on social media. As the artist himself recalled during the final event of the Tempo della Saluteal which he participated together with the surgeon who operated on it, Massimo Falconi, director of the Pancreas and Transplant Surgery Unit of the IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital from Milan.
Communicate the tumor to everyone
“I decided to talk about my illness on social media partly because I felt the need to sharing what was happening to mepartly also for help those who are experiencing or will have to live the same experience as me – said the singer -. When I got the diagnosis, I searched the internet and found little information. The neuroendocrine tumor of the pancreas it is very rare and it was that of Steve Jobs, not reassuring news. I had no other references. And then there is Gianluca Vialli, with whom I was able to talk the next day and he helped me, he gave me relief. I was aware that I would also receive criticism, such as those, which arrived promptly, about my undergoing examinations and treatments as a “privileged”, but I wanted to help others. They even called me a “pathological narcissist”. But I also got a lot of affection and I am still convinced and happy with my choice ». For Federico, cancer has never been a taboo: “I have had several cases in the family, we have lost relatives,” he recalled.
Fear and help
During the meeting Federico recalled the great initial anguish: as for everyone, the diagnosis of cancer was one shock accompanied by fear and anxiety. «For me, cancer was not taboo, unfortunately we have had several cases in the family and I have lost some relatives. In the first terrible days and throughout the following period, the greatest help came from my family and friends. The support you can get if you talk is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t hide. The closeness of those who love you is a great help in order not to be discouraged ».
There are about 3 thousand every year in Italy new diagnoses of neuroendocrine tumors (also known as NETs, from the English Neuro-Endocrine Tumors), rare diseases that can affect different organs such as pancreas (as in the case of Fedez), intestine, lungs, thyroid , thymus or adrenal glands. «There are dozens of subtypes of NETs, very different from each other – explained Falconi -. They can be divided into “well differentiated”, which generally grow slowly and are less aggressive (but still potentially malignant, they can metastasize even after many years) and “poorly differentiated”, which develop faster and are more likely to be metastatic from the beginning”. They are almost always “silent” tumors, because only in two cases out of ten do they give specific symptoms and are often identified accidentally in the course of investigations conducted for other causes and, unfortunately, belatedly.
The tumor discovered “by chance”
Federico, however, was lucky at least in this: his diagnosis was early (“I discovered it by chance through a control exam, I am a hypochondriac and I do check-ups, including a CT scan of the lungs for a previous problem that showed something wrong. From there the check-ups started: this was my real great privilege “said Fedez), there were no metastases and the histological examination then showed that the neoplasm was not it had affected the lymph nodes. So he didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy, surgery was enough, “but the operation was important – as he himself recalled – with the removal of the duodenum, gall bladder, head of the pancreas and a piece of intestine. I have to take drugs every day, be careful with my diet, I often have digestive problems and stomach pains, which I hope will pass over time. But I’m fine, I can do the same things as before, my life hasn’t changed that much. ”
«Although having eliminated various organs and bowels, the continuity between the various tubes of the digestive system is reconstructed and one can live well as Federico demonstrates – confirmed Falconi -. It is one of the most complex operations, which is why it is important to rely on expert hands and to be treated. You need highly experienced centers and surgeons. We are faced with very different and complex pathologies, which require a personalized approach and integrated management by various specialists – underlined Falconi, who is also president of AISP (Italian Association for the Study of the Pancreas) and of ITANET ( Italian Association for Neuroendocrine Tumors) -. If the pathology is localized, surgery can lead to a high percentage of patients to heal. When, on the other hand, there are already metastases, or in case of relapses that occur over time, today we still have different types of drugs available. We no longer need to talk about incurable tumors. Even when recovery is unfortunately not an achievable goal, we can still offer patients, in most cases, a treatment that in many cases prolongs survival and improves the quality of their life “.
Proper information can save lives
Fedez and Falconi underlined the crucial importance of being properly informed. “Better to talk 10 minutes more with the doctor than to google, as I did a whole night self-flagellating” concluded Federico.
“You can find everything on the internet, much better to deal with your own team of specialists”. It is in that context that Umberto Veronesi, one of the greatest Italian oncologists and pioneer of many battles in favor of cancer patients, decided in 2003 to commit himself to breaking down the taboo. Clearance of the word cancer was the first fundamental step not only to psychologically support patients and their families in a very difficult moment, but also to improve care. Thus was born Sportello Cancro section of the Corriere della Sera in collaboration with the Umberto Veronesi Foundation dedicated to oncology. Because correct information can save lives. Learning to prevent and recognize the symptoms of a possible disorder can allow for an early diagnosis that can make a difference in the possibility of recovery. And then knowing the disease you suffer from, what are the best treatment strategies available and the centers with more experience (especially for rare diseases) is a fundamental step, especially if you have to deal with a complex and dangerous disease such as cancer.
November 13, 2022 (change November 13, 2022 | 20:17)
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