Today, February 4, is World Cancer Day (WCD), an international commemorative day on which to continue raising awareness of cancer, as well as encourage its prevention, early detection and effective treatment wherever possible.
The term ‘cancer’ describes a group of related diseases which involve uncontrolled abnormal growth of any of the trillions of cells in the human body, with the potential to invade and otherwise spread to other body parts through metastasizing. This is a major cause of death from cancer.
More notable of the maladies are lung cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, colo-rectal cancer, thyroid cancer, leukemia, lymphoma...
Possible signs and symptoms of malignant cancer include – but are not limited to – a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss, a change in bowel movements, etc.
However, while such symptoms may indicate cancer, they can also have other causes. In any case, over 100 different types of cancers affect humans, as noted by the National Cancer Institute of the US Department of Health and Human Services in its September 17, 2007 publication titled ‘Defining Cancer.’
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the United Nations, cancer is the second-leading cause of death globally after heart diseases, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths, or one-in-six deaths, in 2018 – about 70 percent of the deaths occurring in low-and-middle-income countries. The cancer burden continues to grow globally, exerting tremendous physical, emotional and financial strain on individuals, families, communities, nations – and healthcare systems across the board.
World Cancer Day initiative is proving useful
Many healthcare systems in low- and middle-income countries are least prepared to manage this burden, and large numbers of cancer patients globally do not have access to timely quality diagnosis and treatment.
In countries where healthcare systems are strong, survival rates of many types of cancer cases are improving – thanks to readily accessible early detection, quality treatment and survivorship care. But, all in all, the Year-2000 World Cancer Day initiative seems to help, albeit so modestly, in reducing the global cancer burden. Indeed, 30-50 percent of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors, and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies.
The cancer burden can also be reduced through early detection of the disease, and functional management of cancer patients, as many cancers have a high chance of cure today if diagnosed early and properly treated.
On May 31, 2017, the 70th World Health Assembly passed Resolution Number WHA70.12 on ‘Cancer Prevention and Control through an Integrated Approach,’ urging governments and WHO “to accelerate action to achieve the targets specified in the Global Action Plan and 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development to reduce premature mortality from cancer.”
It is with all this in mind that we urge the government – working in close association with the World Health Organisation, other related UN institutions and the Geneva-based Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) – to take full advantage of the ‘World Cancer Day’ opportunity today and well into the future.
In this regard, the President John Magufuli government must do everything in its power in seeking “a healthier, brighter world that is without cancer...”