Today we recognise the power of knowledge. 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.
Cancer is a noncommunicable disease 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.
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.
“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.
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 each year, 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 just 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 this useful resource – Saving Lives, Spending Less: The Case for Investing in Noncommunicable Diseases.
Only through deeper knowledge and understanding can progress be mad. On world cancer day, the UICC calls on you, whoever and wherever you are, to play your part in creating a cancer-free world.