“Passing the covid-19 saved my life”

Antonio Valero, a doctor at the Hospital Clínic, was detected cancer in some routine tests that they performed after having been admitted for the virus. “It was an incidental finding,” says the doctor who treated him. This is the story of a man who is still alive thanks to the pandemic.

Antonio Valero, 63-year-old wants to buy a covid-19 poster (“I don’t even know if there is”, he needs) to put it in his office. Because the virus that put him in a serious bind (Valero spent 10 days admitted to the Hospital Clínic, where he works as a doctor, and was close to entering the ICU) ended up sparing him from something worse: a late diagnosis of liver cancer. “Covid-19 possibly saved my life, or fixed it for me. I don’t know if I would have died in the end. But thanks to it I was able to solve one serious complex medical situation “, relates. The following is his story, which began in March 2020, at the worst moment of the pandemic.

“At the end of that month I began to have chills and cough I already suspected that I had covid-19, “says this allergist from the Pneumology and Allergy Service of the Clinic of Barcelona, ​​which at that time, like all health workers, was upset with the pandemic. Although at that time there was no PCR, Valero managed to have one done and the diagnosis was confirmed: had coronavirus and isolated himself at home. But seven days later his situation worsened and he had to be admitted to the hospital where he works. “They put me oxygen and I was afraid to enter the ICU, because I knew that it was getting worse “, bill. Luckily from the sixth day he improved and on the tenth he was able to return home.

Antonio’s story takes a leap of a month and a half in time. In May it is fully recovered and in June he goes back to work. It felt really good. “I was in bike to Tibidabo, he was energetic. I went back to working hard. And then in the hospital they tell me that they are doing a postcovid tracking to the sick who passed the virus, and if I wanted to do those too tests”. They were simple: a TAC and an analysis. “And, although I was fine, I did them because I was doing well on schedule,” he adds. It was already July 2020.

Here was the first of the coincidences that saved Valero’s life: the CT scan of his lungs allowed him to see partially the liver. “They called me from Radiology and they told me that the lungs were very good, but that circumstantially the CT scan took part of the liver and that they were seeing a nodule”, account this doctor. Since he was fine and hadn’t lost any weight, the doctors told him it would be benign.

However, it was not. One time ultrasound ruled out that it was an angioma (a benign tumor), Valero began to worry. And a biopsy confirmed all the fears: it was a hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer. “They operated on me to remove it and I had to wait for the biopsy. If things had gone well, I knew I would have low risk of recurrence. But if he had metastasis, he knew he would enter a phase of radiotherapy or chemo, “says Valero.

The first chance was that the CT scan of the lungs allowed a partial view of the liver

But everything went well. He tells it, along with him, his doctor, the doctor who treated him, and also his co-worker: Maria Reig, Head of the Hepatic Oncology Unit of the Clinic. “We ordered to analyze the surgical piece that we extracted and we saw that there were no criteria to think that the cancer could reappear in a short period of time. That is why now the only thing Antonio does is follow-up, neither chemo nor radio. And it takes life relatively normal “, says this hepato-oncologist.

Valero was operated on July 18 of last year. “I feel perfectly fine. I don’t drink alcohol, I regained the 10 kilos I lost when I had surgery, I ride a bike. But it has changed my perception of life. One day you are fine and another, suddenly, your life goes away, “reflects this doctor.

Risk factor’s

Still, Reig calls the awareness about a type of cancer, liver cancer, which is usually asymptomatic until it is in advanced stages. “The fat in the liver is a risk factor for developing cancer, but the majority of the population does not know it or underestimates it, “explains this oncologist. Fat in the liver is associated with sedentary lifestyle, al overweight Yet the obesity, among other causes.

And this is not the only risk factor. So is having liver diseases such as hepatitis B or C, and the alcohol consumption. “There is a stigma, which is to think that the alcoholic patient is one who does not go to work, who walks down the street, without family support, and it is not like that. chronic alcohol use in some patients with certain characteristics it can cause liver problems, so this risk factor must be reduced “, says Reig, who recommends that all patients who have liver disease have a ultrasound every six months. “It’s very important do not skip the controls “, insists. She believes that if liver cancer were screened like breast cancer, many patients who are at risk could be diagnosed.

Having fat in the liver, having had hepatitis or alcohol are risk factors for developing cancer that is asymptomatic

“Antonio’s case was a incidental finding, as we say in Medicine. In this case it has turned out very well, but it is not what we usually see. This tumor is asymptomatic, it gives symptoms when it is in an advanced stage and that is why it is key intentionally looking for it in patients at risk “, insists. The detection at an early stage It was what saved Valero. “I was fine, I would not have gone to the doctor. I hope to die of something else,” says the allergist.

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Reig also points out that in recent years it has changed “radically” the treatment of liver cancer. If in 2007 there was a large percentage of patients who did not have any treatment, now there are “up to five options even in patients in an advanced stage”.

When liver cancer is diagnosed in early stages, the chance that the tumor will reappear after five years is 75%. When detected in advanced stages, the median survival rate, without treatment, is six months. With treatment, they can even exceed 19 months.


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