Is there anyone whose life has not been touched by cancer?
Each one of us has, or will have, a personal relationship with the "C" word. It's the diagnosis which can change everything and which sharply defines our mortality.
Although we wish to avoid the discussion, it's time to bring our fear to the foreground and confront the myths about cancer. The topic of cancer is best approached with as much information as possible. There are actions we can take to diminish its impact. We can't afford to not know about cancer. It’s a disease that knows no boundaries – ethnic, geographic, or economic.
World Cancer Day, February 4, is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). The UICC is a leading cancer fighting organization with more than 760 member organizations across 155 countries representing the world's major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes, treatment centers and patient groups.
This year, the World Cancer Day campaign is centered on exploring four myths of cancer with the UICC’s campaign: “Cancer - Did You Know?”
- Myth 1: Cancer is just a health issue
- Myth 2: Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries
- Myth 3: Cancer Is a death sentence
- Myth 4: Cancer Is my fate
Dispelling the myths, one by one
The UICC has prepared facts to combat the myths. And one of the basic facts about cancer is that it is not just a health issue. It has wide-reaching social, economic, development, and human rights implications.
Here are some UICC World Cancer Day facts to help put the first myth, cancer is just a health issue, into perspective:
- Approximately 47% of cancer cases and 55% of cancer deaths occur in less developed regions of the world.
- The situation is predicted to get worse. By 2030, if current trends continue, cancer cases will increase by 81% in developing countries.
- Cancer is both a cause and an outcome of poverty.
- Cancer is threatening further improvements in women's health and gender equality. Just two cancers, breast and cervical cancer, together, account for over 750,000 deaths each year with the large majority of deaths occurring in developing countries.
I'd like to invite each of you to become advocates committed to bringing cancer talk out into the open. It's really easy, although you may have to adjust to being labeled a passionate health activist. I took the first step years ago and I've never looked back. Advocating for healthy populations isn't about nameless faceless masses. Look around you. Arm yourself with a few pertinent facts and don't be afraid to look lovingly into the eyes of your friends and ask them to quit smoking.
It's an act of caring when you remind your mom, wife, girlfriend, sister or lover to get her mammogram.
There are many places in the world where the availability of breast and cervical cancer screening don't exist. This fact leads us to tomorrow’s topic Myth 2: Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries.