Yesterday, I introduced the concept of World Cancer Day, coming up tomorrow, February 4, 2013. The UICC (Union for International Cancer Control) has launched World Cancer Day as a global event with the intent of raising our consciousness regarding four prevalent myths of cancer.
The UICC considers cancer a global epidemic, affecting all ages and socio-economic groups, with developing countries bearing a disproportionate burden. 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
I have first-hand experience with the impact of cancer in the developing world as a result of the work I am doing in Ethiopia. Six years ago, I was invited to work in a private hospital in Adama, Ethiopia. I met many kind and gentle women whose lives were complicated because of their lack of available screening for two critical diseases, breast and cervical cancer. The two weeks spent working there inspired me to do more and to strategize how I might help address the global cancer epidemic one woman at a time. I developed a non-profit organization focused on bringing cervical cancer screening to Ethiopia – the International Partnership for Reproductive Health. I became a health activist, and I'm asking you to become one too.
Here are the facts from the UICC you can use to help me dispel Myth 2: Cancer Is A Disease of the Wealthy, Elderly, and Developed Countries*
- Cancer now accounts for more deaths worldwide than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Of the 7.6 million global deaths from cancer in 2008, more than 55% occurred in less developed regions of the world. By 2030, 60-70% of the estimated 21.4 million new cancer cases per year are predicted to occur in developing countries.
- There are massive inequities in access to pain relief with more than 9% of untreated and painful deaths occurring in developing countries. In 200, more than 90% of the global consumption of opioid analgesics was in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S.A., and some European countries; with less than 10% of the global quantities used by the other 80% of the world's population.
- Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cancer and infectious diseases, should not be seen as competing priorities but instead as global health issues that disproportionately affect developing countries. They require an integrated approach that builds capacity in national health systems to protect individuals across the spectrum of diseases.
- Approximately 50% of cancer in developing countries occurs in individuals less than 65 years of age. This is a tragedy for families and for populations, and has the potential to have long-term impact on economic development.
- Demographic differences correlate highly with common cancer risk factors e.g. poor nutrition, tobacco use, physical inactivity and alcohol.
How has cancer touched your life? Chances are it has in some way. How can you help dispel these myths?