Dispelling the myths about cancer

By Efrosini Costa

Dispelling the myths about cancer
There are many myths out there about cancer; February 4 is a chance to get the facts and help in the fight against this disease.

More than seven million people die from cancer worldwide each year. Close to half of them die prematurely, between the ages of 30 and 69.

If urgent action and awareness does not commence and effective preventative measures are not taken, this number will steadily increase.

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) believes close to two million lives, lost to cancer each year, could be saved if those at risk were made aware early on.

Today, on World Cancer Day, they are urging individuals, communities and governments to speak up and dispel the damaging myths and misconceptions surrounding the disease.

Did you know?

Cancer is NOT just a health issue

Cancer is both a cause and an outcome of poverty. It has wide reaching social, economical, development and human rights implications, and the global cost of cancer is expected to reach $458 billion by 2030.

Treatment costs, emotional support and care needed when dealing with cancer can negatively impact a family, hindering their ability to earn an income, as well as affecting their access to education and health services in the future. At the same time poverty and a lack of access to education and healthcare increases a person’s risk of developing and dying from the disease.

With 750,000 deaths due to cervical and breast cancer occurring annually, cancer also presents a threat to women’s health, their rights, and equality – especially in the developing world.

Cancer is NOT just a disease of the wealthy and elderly of the developing world

Cancer is a global issue; it now account for more deaths worldwide than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. It affects all ages and socio-economic groups, with the developing world disproportionately burdened.

Almost half of all cancer cases occur in the developing world, with 55 per cent of cancer deaths occurring there. Many of the cancer victims are under the age of 65. It is also the leading cause of death for children. By 2030, it is expected the disease will account for the deaths of almost half a million women, with 21.4 million cases per year predicted to occur by this time. These are some of the reasons it is increasingly becoming a public health problem for poorer nations.

Pain relief and treatment available to cancer sufferers is also disproportionate worldwide. 90 per cent of global opioid analgesics, strong pain relievers, are used by the developed world. Less than 10 per cent of quantities are used by the other 80 per cent of the world, mainly developing nations.

Cancer is NOT a death sentence

Thanks to the advancement of modern medicine, many cancers can now be cured, and broader cancer treatment has become much more effective.

Many cancers are now treatable and preventable, thanks to effective, preventative measures like vaccines and screenings. The HPV vaccine, which was made available a few years ago, could prevent up to 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases. Australia’s’ own mammographic screening program has seen a 30 per cent reduction in mortality from breast cancer over the last two decades.

Understanding the risk factors, prevention, early detection, and treatment have helped to revolutionise the management of cancer and has led to improved outcomes for cancer patients.

Cancer does NOT have to be your fate

More than one in every three cancers can be prevented, with the right strategy. Knowing our daily risk factors is key to this prevention – just addressing tobacco use could help to decreases the number of cancer cases worldwide by up to 30 per cent.

Prevention is the most sustainable and cost-effective way of reducing the impact of cancer and its global burden in the long term.

Limiting our exposure to radiation, sunlight, and pollution can help to prevent cancer. Protecting ourselves from chronic cancer-causing infections such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), the human papillomavirus (HPV), and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) could also decrease our chance of developing cancer.

Being aware and sharing this information with others is critical to effective cancer control and care, especially for the detection of cancer at early and treatable stages.


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