Together, our actions matter

World Cancer Day is celebrated all over the world to raise cancer awareness regarding its prevention, causes, symptoms, early detection and treatment. The day is celebrated on 4th of February every year. Updated GLOBOCON 2020 shows the number has risen to 19.3 million cases and 10 million cancer deaths in 2020.

Globally, 1 in 5 people develop cancer during their lifetime, and 1 in 8 men and 1 in 11 women die from the disease. These new estimates suggest that more than 50 million people are living with the disease since five years of their diagnosis. Ageing populations globally and socio-economic risk factors remain among the primary factors leading to this increase. Breast cancer represents 1 in 4 cancers diagnosed among women globally. For the 1st time, female breast cancer has become the most commonly diagnosed cancer, surpassing the lung cancer.

Approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low and middle income countries. Around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks like obesity, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use. Tobacco being the most important risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths. Cancer causing infections, like hepatitis and human papilloma virus (HPV) are responsible for up to 25% of cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries. Late-stages of presentation and inaccessibility for diagnosis and treatment are common. The economic impact of cancer is also significant and is increasing.

The World Cancer Day is dedicated and aims to inculcate in all of us, an understanding regarding the seriousness about the Cancer and promote its prevention, early detection and treatment. So, let’s make sure that we all contribute our part in it and pave a way towards a better Global Health. The threat cannot be evaded completely but can be dealt with more efficiency.

The theme of the dayI am and I Will is about recognising we as a community could all contribute towards creating a cancer-free world. The significance of this theme is to understand that all our individual contributions matter when it comes to the prevention of cancer. Together, all our actions matter. The Cancer has troubled the whole globe. Therefore, it is a high time we all cooperate at national and international levels and bring forth a completely aware world where nobody suffers without knowledge or access to medication.

Creating a strong health infrastructure needs to be established using global cooperation and this day reminds us all the need for it. Also, to tackle this disease, awareness and healthcare facilities are important, so is emotional support to those actually suffering from Cancer. For this one needs to be in an environment where we are aware and are willing to extend the care for cancer patients.

Community education about the benefits of public health policies in reducing the burden of cancer and other chronic diseases has the potential to generate public support and mobilize communities to raise voice for its prevention and control. Ongoing monitoring of these and other policies is critical for understanding, tracking changes and responding to public concerns about specific public health policy proposals. There is an urgent need to make the most efficient use of the limited resources that are available to make an impact on cancer, to reduce its incidence, mortality and improve the quality of life of cancer patients through systematic implementation of evidence based interventions and use of most efficient and cost-effective strategies. At the administrative level, specific actions are needed like acceleration of health services including giving priority to the population residing in remote areas having difficulties in accessing health facilities due to geographical barriers.

A lot has been done and a lot more is  needed to make policies and plans to strengthen the existing health system for effective cancer control, giving  universal coverage of HPV and HBV vaccine and providing universal access to screening and early detection, also measuring the burden and the impact of cancer plans at all levels.

Cancer literacy poses a unique challenge compared to health literacy related to other diseases. There are many time-critical decisions to be made by both the patient and provider, since early screening, diagnosis and treatment at the earliest have an impact on the chances of survival. Cancer treatments can be complex and involves multiple physicians, tests, treatments, and the need to manage potential side effects. Thus, any action or lack thereof by patients or providers may have important clinical implications.

KEY FACTS

  • About one third of cancers can be prevented and for this encourage yourself and your near and dear ones to spread a word about it and boost  immunisation against human papilloma virus, hepatitis B virus, develop healthy life style like eating healthy food, increasing your physical activity, maintain healthy body weight, avoiding tobacco and wearing sunscreens.
  • One third of cancers are curable provided they are detected early and treated adequately. So one should get screened at regular intervals depending on risk category and age a persons belong and never be ignorant in getting oneself checked by your physician if you have noticed any abnormal swelling anywhere in the body, non-healing ulcers, persistent cough, blood with stools, loss of appetite, bloating and indigestion of food. Remember every symptom is not a cancer, but majority of cancers present with warning signs and symptoms. So never take anything easy and get yourself checked at the earliest.
  • Help in annihilating the social stigma associated with it, there are certain sections of society who spread wrong notion about the disease make such individuals feel outcast and inferior from the healthy subjects and strongly believe that meeting the sufferers and sharing food with them may transmit the disease, when in reality cancer is a non – communicable disease.
  • Be a strong support to individuals diagnosed and undergoing an active treatment, all they need is the moral, social support and words of encouragement from family, friends and relatives to fight the disease at their best.
  • Dispel the myths and negativity from the mind sets of common people having a strong belief that outcome is going to be the same whether a person undergoes a treatment or not.

Cancer survivors should share their stories through various social media platforms as it will be more motivating and is going to have strong impact to those undergoing treatment. Cancer is lethal and leads to death of millions of people worldwide every year, at the same time we should not forget the fact that long term cancer survivors are also out there and living a healthy and happy life.

Last but not the least we should remember if there is a fear, there is also a hope. Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible. Let’s make the world cancer day a success and participate on this day as much as we can in spreading the awareness. Let’s make our people smart and able enough to successfully curb the disease and make our future healthy, happy and prosperous.

Dr. Shaqul Qamar Wani, MD, Fellowship Radiation Oncology, Associate Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology & State Cancer Institute, SIKIMS, Srinagar