News & Innovation , Oncology (Cancer)
Increased awareness about the benefits of early diagnosis is key to saving lives
Every year on February 4 the world speaks with one voice to raise awareness of cancer in every corner of the globe – the World Cancer Day is an initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), a cancer-fighting organisation with more than 1,100 members in 170 countries.
“This World Cancer Day, we want people to know that many cancers can be managed and even cured, especially if they’re detected and treated as early as possible. By detecting cancer at its earliest stage, we seize the greatest opportunity to prevent millions of avoidable deaths worldwide,” said Chief Executive Officer, Union for International Cancer Control, Dr Cary Adams in a press release.
Cancer has a significant impact on humanity as the second leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for about 1 in 6 deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Cancer-related deaths amounted to 9.6 million in 2018 and these are the types of cancer that led to the greatest number of death:
- Breast (2.09 million deaths)
- Colorectal (1.80 million deaths)
- Prostate (1.28 million cases)
- Skin Cancer (non-melanoma) (1.04 million deaths)
- Stomach (1.03 million deaths)
By and large, patients diagnosed with an early-stage cancer have a dramatically higher chance of survival beyond five years after diagnosis compared to those diagnosed at a later stage when the tumour has spread to other tissues and therefore it’s harder to treat.
In the US, for instance, only 15 percent of women diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer are alive five years after diagnosis, while the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed when cervical cancer has not spread skyrockets to 93 per cent, according to the American Cancer Society. Similar patterns are observed even in countries of lower income level.
Early cancer screening and diagnosis remain some of the most effective ways to make a dent in cancer mortality, however, too many cancers are still being diagnosed late.
Overcoming barriers to early diagnosis
Feeling of shame and fear, poor health awareness and gender norms are some strong barriers preventing many people from seeking treatment early, according to the UICC.
Masculine gender norms, for example, lead some men to avoid seeking medical help even when potential cancer symptoms appear. In those cases, encouragement and support from spouses and family members are key factors pushing patients to do a check-up.
While a report in the UK found out that one in four people do not seek medical care due to fear of a cancer diagnosis.
To overcome these barriers, increased awareness of the benefits of early screening and diagnosis is crucial.
I Am And I Will
Under the campaign theme I am and I will, World Cancer Day hopes to inspire individuals, health organisations and governments to take action against cancer.
“Cancer thrives on late presentation of the disease. The delay allows it to spread and cause damage totally unchallenged. That is why, on this World Cancer Day, I urge you all to educate yourselves with the signs and symptoms of cancer and to not be afraid to seek help immediately. Equally, I urge governments to prioritise and systemise early detection and screening programmes to allow for better access and to give all a fighting chance to beat cancer,” said Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, President of the UICC, in a press release.
From dedicating a miniscule minute to taking time to be involved in a cancer awareness event, these are some ways to join in the global movement:
- Inform yourself and others about cancer risks and the importance of cancer screening
- Share a personal message on cancer on your social media pages and hashtag #WorldCancerDay and #IAmAndIWill
- Start a conversation about cancer with your family, friends and colleagues
- Make a donation towards UICC to support their work
- Advocate for action with your community leaders or government
- Urge institutions such as schools and workplaces to implement healthy habits such as promoting a nutritious diet and wellness activities
Take action today towards your future without cancer.
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