Experts insist on early cancer detection for World Cancer Day 2019

February 8, 2019

Millions of cancer cases were recorded last year and many could have been preventable. But, barriers exist even as early action is proven to reduce the cost and complexity of cancer treatment, whilst improving patient survival rates and quality of life. In 2018, there were more than 18 million new cases of cancer diagnosed, of which nearly 5 million cases of breast, cervical, colorectal, and oral cancers could have been detected sooner and treated more effectively.

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), which led the campaign for World Cancer Day 2019, recently inaugurated the launch of World Cancer Day’s three-year campaign theme,‘I Am and I Will’, showcasing greater urgency for public awareness and access to early detection, screening, and diagnosis to improve cancer patients’ chances of survival.The CEO of the UICC, Dr. Cary Adams has likened the early action to a great opportunity to prevent avoidable deaths.

The majority of cancers are amenable to early detection coupled with appropriate treatment – the chances of survival beyond five years is dramatically higher across the globe than when detected at a later stage i.e. when the tumour has spread. The early intervention initiatives also prevent unnecessarily complex and expensive options – both reducing costs and promoting savings in cancer treatment.

UICC President and mother of a cancer survivor HRH Princess Dina Miredof Jordan has explained that cancer thrives on late presentation of the disease – after spreading and causing damage unchallenged. She urges the public to seek immediate help and for governments to provide better access to healthcare.

However, some barriers complicate early cancer detection and diagnosis:

  • Age – young children especially have decreased understanding and communication methods in their approach to care
  • Masculine gender norms – a lack of men’s health promotion and help-seeking behaviour prevent intervention even when men might suspect cancer early on
  • Feelings of shame and fear, poor health awareness and cultural beliefs – keeps people from seeking medical care
  • Weak referral systems and limited access to pathology services for diagnostic testing – ultimately slows down treatment, notably in low-income countries where pathology services are less available compared to high-income countries.

The UICC has called on governments to translate their commitments to reduce the burden of cancer into national action to save lives, recommending:

  • increased investment in diagnostic capacities for cancer detection
  • measures to reduce stigma and improve public awareness across societies
  • cost-effective and culturally-appropriate screenings and early detection programmes
  • stronger national health systems’ referral mechanisms to facilities providing diagnostic and treatment services

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus advocates services for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and palliative care to win the fight against cancer.

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Category: Features, Top Story

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