Today we recognise the power of knowledge and awareness. As the 3 year World Cancer Day campaign continues, people are encouraged to work together to spread the word. We know that every single one of us has the ability to make a difference, large or small, and that together we can make real progress in reducing the global impact of cancer. There is strength in numbers!
The first step in solving any problem is awareness, and we can raise awareness through education and discussion. Despite great strides and advancements in medicine, cancer still exists and remains a threat throughout the world.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a noncommunicable disease (NCD) that has been described throughout history since Ancient Egyptian times but it was not until 1775 that a correlation between the environment and cancer was discovered. British surgeon Percivall Pott found that cancer of the scrotum was a common disease amongst Chimney sweeps. Over the centuries many types of cancer have been discovered and modern medicine has developed novel curative treatments.
“On World Cancer Day, let us resolve to end the injustice of preventable suffering from this disease as part of our larger push to leave no one behind” – Ban Ki-moon, Former Secretary-General, UN
The early choice of treatment was surgery, even before the discovery of anaesthesia in 1846, but it often had a poor prognosis. The most significant change in cancer treatment occurred at the end of the 19th century – the discovery of radiotherapy by Marie and Pierre Currie.
As cancer treatment has evolved, access to services has lagged behind. Treatment is highly specialised using expensive equipment in specialist centres reducing access and availability of services. Where we live, how much we earn, our ethnicity, gender, age, disability and lifestyle can affect the care that is received. This year World Cancer Day is about raising awareness of the barriers of the equity gap that affects people in low, middle and high-income countries.
To make a difference it is important to understand and recognise the inequities that exist in cancer care around the world. It is not just about everyone having equal resources but about ensuring that everyone has access to the resources that they need.
Location shouldn’t limit access to treatment
Every year 10 million people die from cancer, 70% of these deaths are people from low-to-middle income countries. However, less than 30% of low-income countries have the cancer treatments they need (compared to 90% in high-income countries). In refugee populations, cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in the advanced stages, leading to less favourable outcomes.
The World Health Organisation has published a report that looks at how steps can be taken to reduce premature death by cancer and other NCDs, in low- and middle-income countries, through investment in Best Buy interventions – you can read more in the useful resource Saving Lives, Spending Less: The Case for Investing in Noncommunicable Diseases.
Only through deeper knowledge and understanding can progress be made. On World Cancer Day, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) calls on you, whoever and wherever you are, to play your part in creating a cancer-free world.
What Can you Do?
There are so many ways you can get involved, every action counts. Some of the ways you, your family, coworkers and neighbours can help:
- Make a difference by providing transportation to someone who needs to travel for appointments
- Campaign for healthy and affordable food choices in school
- Help to raise public awareness and share with the world through social media, using the hashtags #WorldCancerDay and #CloseTheCareGap
- Find out more about cancer, how you can reduce your cancer risks, and the impact it has on the people we love, our communities, and the world
Together it is possible to achieve almost anything.