World Cancer Day - Feb. 4th, 2019

by Jane Ashley

Monday, February 4, 2019, is World Cancer Day – a day designated throughout the world to bring awareness concerning cancer and the importance of early screening and detection. This day also focuses on ways to help prevent cancer, with healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation, and HPV awareness and vaccination.

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The World and Cancer.

According to the World Health Organization, about 9.6 million people died worldwide in 2018 from cancer. Translated that means about 1 of every 6 deaths was caused by cancer. Here are some other startling facts.

70 percent of deaths occur in low-and-middle income countries. That’s not surprising. Residents in the low-income countries often lack access to basic healthcare. Access to more advanced diagnostic tests is limited, and cancer treatment is limited. Only 26 percent of low-income countries even have pathology services available to the public sector.

One in five of all cancer deaths is caused by one of 6 factors: obesity, lack of exercise, low fruit/vegetable consumption, tobacco use, HPV/hepatitis and alcohol consumption.

Tobacco alone is responsible for about 22 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide.

Hepatitis and HPV, both cancer-causing viruses, are responsible for one-quarter of all cancer deaths in low-and-middle income countries.

Cancer is diagnosed later in low-and-middle income countries, making it more difficult to treat.

Only 1 in 5 low-and-middle income countries lack the data to develop a cancer policy.

Cancer, Worldwide, by the Numbers

Hpv   The Global Burden

We, here at WhatNext, understand how devastating a cancer diagnosis is. We also know the costs associated with diagnosis and treatment. But most of us have access to healthcare. But can you imagine your loved one getting sicker and sicker with no diagnostic tests and no treatment options? The problem is that there is no basic healthcare in small villages and rural areas. Even in larger urban areas, services in many hospitals is antiquated and out-of-date.

These are the estimated cases diagnosed annually.

• Lung – 2.09 million

• Breast – 2.09 million

• Colorectal – 1.80 million

• Prostate – 1.28 million

• Skin cancer (non-melanoma) – 1.04 million

• Stomach – 1.03 million

Here are the estimated deaths annually.

• Lung - 1.76 million deaths

• Colorectal – 862,000 deaths

• Stomach – 783,000 deaths

• Liver – 782,000 deaths

• Breast – 627,000 deaths

What Can Be Done?

80 Percent Of11 Billion Smokers

Clearly, cancer worldwide is a humanitarian crisis. While we here in the U.S. and other developed countries complain about costs, waiting a few days for scans results and waiting a month before our treatment begins, millions of people go undiagnosed and untreated in a tragedy that is unknown by most people.

Tobacco accounts for 22 percent of the deaths and HPV/hepatitis causes another 25 percent of the deaths. That’s almost 47 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide. Simple public health awareness campaigns accompanied by smoking cessation programs could prevent thousands of deaths and the suffering of untreated disease. Vaccination against HPV and hepatitis B could prevent 1 million cases of cancer annually.

Fathers and mothers, still alive and able to care for children, would justify the costs – these children wouldn’t be orphaned and wouldn’t become wards of the state.

Only when we, in the developed nations, know and acknowledge the tragedy of cancer worldwide will we begin to help prevent cancer in the developing nations. And who better than us, cancer patients and survivors, to help tell this story.

The Bottom Line …

This untold story is why World Cancer Day exists – to help raise awareness of the value of ways to help prevent cancer and early screening detection.

The magnitude of helping prevent lung cancer and virus-caused cancer appears to be beyond what we could reasonably be able to do. But wait – there are two examples of eradication of worldwide disease for us to study.

Rotary Foundation and Polio. Baby boomers in the U.S. remember polio in the 1950’s. When Dr. Salk developed the polio vaccine, children throughout the United States were vaccinated, first with a shot and then a vaccine in liquid form dropped on a sugar cube. Polio was eliminated in the U.S., then Canada and then in industrialized nations across the globe. In 1979, the Rotary Foundation committed to eradicating polio from the world, in a similar manner to how smallpox was eradiated worldwide. Their efforts have reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent. Just 22 cases were reported in 2017. The efforts continue to penetrate into the few remote areas where polio exists. Some 16 million polio cases have been averted through the Rotary Foundation’s efforts. The Gates Foundation is matching Rotary’s efforts with $2.00 for each dollar Rotary spends to see that polio is eradicated from the world. Once the last case is reported, constant monitoring for three more years is required to ensure that polio is gone for good.

Jimmy Carter. In 1986, the Carter Foundation began its efforts to eradicate guinea worm disease, a debilitating disease caused by drinking contaminated water. It was common in Africa and Asia and infected more than 3.5 million people when their efforts began over 30 years ago. The Carter Foundation worked with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the various countries suffering from this parasitic disease. Cases are now down to just 28 isolated instances, another reduction of 99.9 percent. Efforts continue in South Sudan, Mali, Chad, and Ethiopia to eliminate these last remaining pockets of the worm. This is another success story similar to the elimination of smallpox.

If the initiatives of these two organizations have done so much, why is it impossible for similar results to help prevent cancers caused by tobacco use, the HPV virus and the hepatitis virus? Commercially available vaccines already exist. Smoking cessations products like nicotine patches and Chantix exist too. Who will step up next to help eliminate suffering in our world?

World Cancer Day – February 4, 2019 – it gives us a lot to think about.

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