Reflections on World Cancer

It has been established that affordable funding increase can save three million lives per year from cancer in low and middle income countries (LMICs) by the year 2030.

Indeed, new data projects that US$18 billion increase in funding per year by the international community could result in a 30% reduction in cancer deaths in LMICs by 2030

These propositions were captured at the launch of the World Cancer Day 2015 in Geneva. World cancer day observed every year on February 4 represents the single initiative under which the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), its members, partners and entire world can come together and unite in the fight against the global cancer epidemic.

Under the tagline- Not beyond us- the world cancer day 2015 being articulated around four key areas of focus namely choosing healthy lives, delivering early detection, achieving treatment for all and maximizing quality of life will take a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting the message that solutions do exist across the continuum of cancer and that they are within our reach.

The campaign will explore how we can implement what we already know in the areas of prevention, early detection, treatment and care, and in turn open up to the exciting prospects that we can impact the global cancer burden for the better.

This year’s World Cancer Day launch on Wednesday, February 4, saw leading global public health experts from the UICC and BREAST CARE INTERNATIONAL (BCI), Ghana’s leading Breast cancer awareness creation, education, counselling, treatment and research Non-governmental organization announce that millions of lives can be saved through affordable increases in investment in cancer services throughout the world based on the belief that

o      Increased annual international community funding of US$18 billion globally could save three million lives per year by 2030 and many more in succeeding decades, through prevention, earlier detection and improved care for cancer patients

o      Increased funding will also provide pain relief to ease the deaths of millions who will die of cancer during this period

o      A tripling of tobacco taxes alone would raise tax revenue available to governments to US$400 billion annually and could encourage one-third of smokers to quit, according to today’s new figures.

It is common knowledge that an all inclusive increase in awareness Creation and Education would help to demystify Cancers while Clinical Screening for early Stage disease and advise on Prompt Action would reduce the number of people reporting late, and thus, improve survival rates, and reduce mortality and morbidity.

In the view of BCI, more emphasis must be placed on Survivorship, to empower survivors to come out and share their positive experiences, since this is one sure way to demystify Cancers and remove the fear surrounding the diagnosis of Cancer as a ‘death sentence’, especially in the low and middle income countries.

Furthermore, BCI suggests that cancers and the other Non Communicable Diseases must be included in the Priority List of our various countries to ensure better results in healthcare delivery for these, as this year’s theme says, are “Not beyond us”.

More than eight million people a year die from cancer of which more than 60% of those deaths occurred in low and middle income countries, the majority in the middle income segment”, says Professor Tezer Kutluk, President of UICC, in his contribution.

The absolute number of cancer cases in developing countries”, he continues,” is set to rise dramatically because of population growth and ageing, so action must be taken now” but points out that” whilst the US$18 billion package is affordable for many countries, it’s unrealistic to expect the world’s poorest nations to contribute to this investment without international support,”.

Headline data presented at the World Cancer Congress1last December from Disease Control Priorities (DCP3), Cancer(Volume 3 of the third DCP edition2)calls on middle income countries with the means to do so to increase spending on cancer by 2-5% of their health budgets.

It however notes that low income countries — where services are least developed, facilities largely absent and trained cancer experts few — will need support from the international community to build capacity, a process that is likely to take a decade or more.

The World Health Organization, on its part, recommended “best buys” for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in 2011, besides the following cancer prevention interventions:

o      Tobacco taxation, regulation and control to reduce tobacco-related cancers

o      Hepatitis B (HBV) vaccination to prevent liver cancer

o      Screening and treatment for precancerous cervical lesions

Again, DCP3 Cancer adds basic treatment and pain control interventions mentioned below to the list, which together create an “essential package:”

o      HPV vaccination for adolescent girls to prevent cervical cancer

o      Pain control for advanced cancer

o      Treatment of selected paediatric cancers

o      Diagnosing and treating early-stage breast and colon cancers

These outlined measures also address high-burden cancers (breast, cervical and colon cancers), highly-curable cancers, (selected) paediatric cancers.

All the interventions are cost-effective, affordable in most middle income countries (and attainable in low income countries, with international assistance) and feasible within the 2030 time-frame.

“It is not beyond us to prevent premature deaths from cancer, so we simply cannot sit back and continue to let the global burden grow. On World Cancer Day 2015 we demand that the international community unites to invest in improved cancer control interventions, particularly in low and middle income countries,” insists Mr. Cary Adams, Chief Executive Officer of UICC.

Feasible and affordable solutions exist across the entire spectrum of cancer such as increased tobacco control, earlier detection and treatment, plus access to life-saving vaccination programmes, which if implemented, will help to significantly reduce disease-based poverty and prevent millions of preventable deaths”, he adds.

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