Today is World Cancer Day and all around the world, people and organisations are raising awareness about cancer. The Union for International Cancer Control organises this day, and people hold seminars, festivals, walks and other events to educate us. We have all heard about cancer before. From ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ to ‘My Sister’s Keeper’, some may argue that we’ve seen somewhat romanticised versions of a deadly disease. However, cancer is very real and closer to us than we ever thought so today is an important day for cancer patients, survivors and everyone else.
Cancer is a group of diseases that can occur almost anywhere in the body, and begins with the abnormal and uncontrollable growth of cells. There are four main types of cancer: carcinomas, which are the most common type, sarcomas, leukaemias, and lymphomas.
Cancers can spread through blood circulation or the lymphatic system, and tumours may begin to develop in new sites. This is called metastasis. However, the cancer will be named after the site it originally developed, despite its spread to other organs and tissues. You’ve probably heard of metastatic breast cancer, for example. This just means that the patient started off with breast cancer that later spread to another part of the body such as the lungs.
One can be screened for cancer, but not all types of cancer present symptoms initially. The best way to test for cancer is to perform a biopsy. A biopsy is simply a method of extracting tissue from a living person to perform diagnostic tests on it.
There are the better known cancers like prostate cancer and breast cancer, but there are also less common ones like thyroid cancer and neuroendocrine cancer. This is why today is so important; we are raising awareness about all cancer types. Cancer can be treated, and some treatment methods include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormonal therapy. An important thing to note is that late diagnosis reduces the effectiveness and chance of success of the treatment.
In 2018, statistics from the World Cancer Research Fund recorded an estimated 18 million cases, of which 9.5 million were male and 8.5 million were female. The most common were breast and lung cancers, followed by colorectal cancer. Prostate cancer was next, followed by stomach cancer. Cervical cancer was the eight most common cancer. This is key information considering that last month was cervical cancer month and the climax of MOMIC ’22 took place during the weekend.
The number of people expected to die because of cancer last year was 26, 000 and this number is expected to increase this year. It is definitely worrying, and has prompted a greater effort to make cancer a global health priority. The events being held worldwide are aiming at cancer prevention (and we all agree that prevention is better than cure). We are all being encouraged to practise healthier lifestyle habits such as avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. We should also stay informed about cancer and its symptoms, as well as encouraging early testing. We must support cancer patients and survivors, and dispel myths about the disease. Finally, we should try and reach out to the government to commit adequate resources to the fight against cancer and implement no smoking policies and public education on good nutrition and healthy habits.
Today, pay attention to information on cancer on social media, television and radio. Let us show solidarity to the cause. Remember to say a prayer for anyone battling cancer, survivors and their families.
Author: Joan Asante, UGSMD CO. 2023