Every year on February 4th, World Cancer Day is celebrated by bringing awareness and providing education about the disease. Many of the efforts focus on making the reduction of preventable cancer a global health priority.
In 2018, it was estimated that there were 26,000 deaths that occurred due to cancer across the globe every single day. This rate is only predicted to increase with time due to a variety of factors. To name a few: the age of the world population is increasing, there is a general lack of education about ways to prevent cancer in developing countries, and early detection methods and treatment are scarce in these same developing countries. By 2030, the rate of cancer deaths per year is expected to hit 21.6 million – this is 8.4 million more than the 2010 rate. To put this into perspective with infectious diseases, in 2015 alone, the deaths per year due to malaria was 72,000 while cancer rates met 8.9 million – with the majority of the deaths coming from developing countries.
The largest gaps in rates of cancer survival can be noticed in cancers that are more responsive to early screening and treatment (for example: breast and colorectal cancers). These rates vary greatly between developing and developed nations as well as in different racial groups in the same country. In the United States and Australia, the 5 year survival rate for breast cancer (2010-2014) was up to 90% compared to only 65% in Malaysia for the same time frame. In the U.S. between 2004 and 2009, there was a difference in the 5 year survival for cervical cancer between whites and blacks, 64% and 56% respectively. These differences in rates can be attributed to differences in prevention and treatment programs. For example, in many developing countries, cancer patients do not have access to radiotherapy facilities near their homes. There are 60 countries across the globe with cancer patients that do not have one radiotherapy facility in the entire country. On the screening side, many developing nations do not have the health care infrastructure or funds to provide regular cancer screenings. The same gaps in access to care and resources can be said about different areas of socioeconomic status in the United States.
Current efforts to develop prevention and treatment programs across the globe are focused on the WHO’s recommended 4 main approaches or areas of: prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment and palliative care… and there have been successful feats! An example of a successful cancer prevention program is in Sudan. Their program focuses on promoting public awareness of breast cancer and early detection through in-home breast exams done by trained female volunteers. Another positive program was implemented in India in 2013. This program increased breast cancer awareness in the study urban area, and a subsequent increase in early stage diagnosed breast cancer increased from 74% to 81% in 3 years (2013-2016). Most cancer prevention and reduction programs in developing nations focus on the initial stages of increasing awareness and education about cancer as they are cost efficient and effective.
To fight these discrepancies in cancer death rates, many use this day to spread social media messages about cancer prevention and early screening, attending festivals or walks that raise awareness or support and encouraging public government officials to make cancer issues a priority in their own countries through policies and research. In general, the day brings people together with a common cause and mission: getting rid of preventable cancer. This map is a great resource to find and join activities anywhere on the globe related to World Cancer Day.
In addition, 2019 introduces the start of a 3-year campaign called, “I Am and I Will”, and focuses on the personal commitments required to help decrease the global burden of cancer as a whole. The American Cancer Society highlights a few ways people can personally decrease the effects of cancer as well as support others in their circles by:
- Making healthy life choices such as saying no to tobacco products, limiting alcohol, being conscientious about time spent in the sun and eating an overall healthy and wholesome diet
- Knowing the signs and symptoms of cancer and seeking early treatment when identified
- Sharing cancer experiences with decision makers in government and advocating for change and funding to go into cancer research
- Encouraging schools and businesses to adopt healthy practices such as nutrition, physical activity and no tobacco policies to support their students and workers
Visit www.worldcancerday.org before February 4th to learn more about this day and how you can get involved in your own personal way. Every little action makes a difference in shining a light on the importance of defeating cancer on many different scales. #IAmAndIWill