Today, February 4 is World Cancer Day.
Across the entire globe leaders and stakeholders unite to reiterate the need to wrest the grip of cancer over the people.
Yearly, on February 4, concerns are raised over the state of the fight to end the disease. World Cancer Day is coordinated by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), a registered charity in Geneva, Switzerland, with the desire to fight Cancer. Then, the United Nations and UICC inaugurated World Cancer Day to unite the global community in the fight against cancer, which has assumed a global threat stature. It soon became a global fight and awareness creation for preventive measures and save the world.
Leading the effort annually is the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Relentlessly the WHO and ally health bodies/partners bring global awareness campaigns being executed around the world to tackle the spread of cancer.
Cancer is a disease that occurs when changes in a group of normal cells within the body lead to uncontrollable abnormal growth forming a lump called a tumor that causes severe pains to the victims. According to Oncologists, except for cancer of the blood, (leukaemia) this is true of all kinds of cancers. If these tumours or lumps are not detected and treated early, they will grow inside the body of the host victims and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic systems which usually affect the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems or worse still, release hormones that may affect body function.
The rate at which cancer claims the lives of people around the world has been a matter of global concerns.
Findings show that Cancer cases in under-50s worldwide up nearly 80 per cent in three decades.
The number of under-50s worldwide being diagnosed with cancer has risen by nearly 80 per cent in three decades, according to the largest study of its kind.
Global cases of early cancer increased from 1.82 million in 1990 to 3.26 million in 2019, while cancer deaths of adults in their 40s, 30s or younger grew by 27 per cent. More than a million under-50s a year are now dying of cancer, based on the findings.
Cancer of all kinds are global threat to peoples’ lives, especially the women who are most vulnerable to the two most dreaded killer cancer diseases, commonly identified as cervical and breast cancers. Breast and cervical cancers have been among the killer cancers of recent. The major reason for their high mortality rates in society is poor awareness and late treatment of these cancers, experts have posited.
Genetic factors are likely to have a role, researchers said. But diets high in red meat and salt and low in fruit and milk, along with alcohol and tobacco use, are the main risk factors underlying the most common cancers among under-50s, with physical inactivity, excess weight and high blood sugar contributory factors, the data indicates.
Further findings reveal that cancer is primarily a disease of older age, with the majority of new cancer cases worldwide being diagnosed in those aged 50 and above”.
In low- and middle-income countries, early cancer had a much greater impact on women than on men, in terms of poor health and deaths.
Although a global problem, the Cancer situation in Africa is demoralizing. This calls for urgent measures to deal with the Cancer issue beyond an awareness campaign. Checks reveal that Cancer accounts for over 700,000 deaths on the continent. If this figure is not depressing what about new Cancer cases pointing to 50 per cent of deaths in adults in Africa. The cases as checks reveal range from breast, cervical, prostate, and colorectal to liver cancers. Against the backdrop of the ugly situation, the WHO had called for urgent and desperate measures and warned that Cancer mortality in the continent could reach about one million deaths in a few years.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti said, “Also, in 20 years, cancer death rates in Africa will overtake the global average of 30%. This is more so because cancer survival rates in the WHO African region currently average 12%, much lower than the average of over 80% in High-Income Countries”.
Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, stressed this in a message to commemorate 2024 World Cancer Day.
Interestingly, since 2022 the focus of World Cancer Day is to help “Close the cancer gap.” This year marks the third and final year of the campaign. The theme for this year is “Together, we challenge those in power”. This theme encompasses the global demand for leaders to prioritize and invest in cancer prevention and care and to do more to achieve a just and cancer-free world.
However, it should be noted that remarkable progress is being made in the fight against Cancer in the region. Take, for example, 17 countries have introduced high-performance-based screening tests in line with the WHO recommendations. Also, 28 of our Member States have introduced nationwide HPV vaccination to reach about 60 per cent of the priority population targeted with HPV vaccination.
An interesting aspect of this year’s theme is that it reinforces all persons and groups’ universal right to health. Observers say it is auspicious.
“We believe that regardless of socioeconomic status, geographic location, age, and gender, every person must be afforded an equal chance at the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer”, WHO chief maintained in the message.
“In August 2023, I attended a cervical cancer meeting with survivors and was excited by the potential of new tools to accelerate access to vaccination, screening, and treatment. One of the things survivors said was the need for leaders to listen to their stories”, the chief recalled.
As stakeholders and the entire world reflect on this year’s theme, all people across the world, most especially, leaders are enjoined to invest in cancer prevention and care and to do more to achieve a just and cancer-free world.
It will be helpful if people are concerned about their cancer risk as public awareness is ongoing.
Several ways to help reduce this risk include; not smoking, maintaining a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise and staying safe in the sun.