CANCER – the dreaded ‘C” word that everyone dreads. The diagnosis that no human being wants to hear the doctor say, ‘You have Cancer” The word Cancer is so frightening that when we know of someone who has cancer, we only think of the worst outcome. Why is this so? It’s because globally cancer remains one of the greatest enemies to our health and wellbeing. Soon, it will surpass cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death. We all know at least of someone who has faced cancer head -on or even had a near miss. Since 1990, statistics have shown that there has been 8.1 million new cases year on year. Unless the world begins to address this issue more seriously, it is estimated that by year 2030 there will be approximately 13.1 million deaths from cancer annually. Cancer has become a global challenge. The three most common forms of cancer are lung cancer, breast cancer, and bowel cancer, respectively.
WORLD CANCER DAY is celebrated every year on February 4th, and it was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in Paris. The Paris Charter aims to promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, raise awareness, and mobilise the global community to make progress against cancer, and includes the adoption of World Cancer Day. The primary objective of World Cancer Day is to reduce illness and death caused by cancer and to unite the world’s population in the fight against cancer. The theme for this year’s World Cancer Day is a 3-year global campaign (2022-2024) called Close the Care Gap.
It's not all gloom and doom. The good news is that over 40% of the cancers that are currently affecting people are curable, and the number of survivors is also steadily rising. This is mainly because of the push to study and understanding cancer over the past decade, that brought about the success rate. There is no doubt that the fields of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation have all seen major advances thus giving today’s patients a high degree of confidence that their cancer will be treatable.
Never have so many new drugs and therapies sprung up to treat cancer. In fact, in 2017 the first approval of a cancer gene therapy generated great excitement when Swiss-based pharma Novartis received FDA approval of Kymriah®, a CAR-T cell therapy to treat an aggressive form of leukaemia. How great is that and giving great hope in the future that many types of cancer will at least have successful treatment options and eventually be curable. This document became known as the Charter of Paris Against Cancer. On the 4 February 2000, the Charter was signed by then President of France, Jacques Chirac.
How Can one prevent cancer from happening?
Prevention is the best medicine
Taking good care of your health and eating right. The medical community is also doing their part and we now have the vaccine against cervical cancer (HPV vaccine) which can be administered in one go for patients aged 9 - 44 for a lifetime of protection. The vaccine guards against the virus which cause cervical cancer. Knowing that lung cancer is caused by cigarette smoking is a good reason to quit smoking and avoid areas high air pollution. This knowledge might also guide one to wear a mask to protect from pollution in some instances, or to wear protection against harmful solar rays to avoid skin cancer. If your loved one has oral cancer and has dysphagia or trouble swallowing food, pureed food is the answer to get essential nutrients to maintain strength and support recovery for the patient. Ielder.Asia and Gentle Foods from Singapore have collaborated and introduced tasty and yummy pureed foods in bento sets and what’s more they come with strict dietary requirements for the needs of the patients.
Early Warning is the Key to Success.
Undoubtedly the chances of cancer occurring tend to increase as we age. So, the sooner it is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Easy and effective screening methods have been devised and are now in widespread usage: Take for example the mammogram - It’s the gold standard of breast cancer screening and recommended that women aged 40 years and should get a mammogram every 1-2 years. Taking annual routine health checks on your lungs is a great way to screen for lung cancer. A Pap smear to screen against cervical cancer for women aged 30-65, plus the HPV DNA test to detect the cancer-causing virus is a must. Colonoscopies are recommended for both men and women aged 45 and above to screen for colon and rectal cancer. Furthermore, it pays to be vigilant and observant about your own body. If you notice any abnormalities, such as an unusual growth, an abnormally large wart or spot, or a noticeable change in your bowel movements, it is recommended that you see a physician.
Wide horizons for treatment
We have come a long way. The numbers of cancer patients have increased every year BUT the number of survivors has also increased. This is largely because of the improved accuracy of diagnosis and the superior range of treatment options available, compared with the past. The good news is that with early diagnosis cancer can be nipped in the bud too. Great advances in chemotherapy have milder side effects thus eliminating the fear and anxiety in patients.
Here are 6 healthy Living Tips for World Cancer Day.
TIP 1: Eat a healthy diet, be physically active, and maintain a healthy weight.
Lose weight. Obesity greatly multiplies the risk of different cancers and this is a problem you can easily deal with. Simply go to the gym or a morning run to lose weight. It is a fact that obesity now affects 20% to 40% of adolescents worldwide and being overweight or obese is strongly linked to an increased risk of developing bowel, breast, uterine, ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal, kidney, and gallbladder cancers later in life.
TIP 2: Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Don’t drink alcohol or even if you do, then drink in moderation. Alcoholism can cause liver, kidney, breast, colon and lung cancers in both men and women.
TIP 3: No. No. No to Smoking
Do you smoke? Quit smoking immediately. And if you are not a smoker, don’t acquire this deadly habit. Tobacco is carcinogenic. Its particles can cause cancers of the mouth, larynx, throat, cervix, kidney, and bladder. Don’t chew tobacco. And try to limit your exposure to second-hand smoking. Smoking causes at least 22% of all cancer deaths. It’s been proven that there is a link between smoking and lung cancer.
TIP 4: Protect your skin from UV radiation.
Save yourself from the dangerous UV rays. Avoid going out at noon and shield yourself with sunscreen, umbrellas, and hats. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major risk factor for most types of skin cancer.
TIP 5: Be aware of what you’re breathing.
According to the World Health Organization, the environment contributes to an estimated 19% of cancer diagnoses. An important environmental risk factor for lung cancer is air pollution. For example, inhaling asbestos has been linked to lung cancer as well as laryngeal and ovarian cancers. Use protective gear if you are exposed to dangerous substances like lead, asbestos etc.
TIP 6: Take precautions against cancer-causing viruses.
Chronic infections cause about 16% of all cancers worldwide. Several of the most common cancers are linked to infections with cancer-causing viruses. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a risk factor for liver cancer, while the human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor for cervical cancer, as well as some types of head and neck cancers. There are vaccines that protect against both viruses.
Cancer threatens everyone equally, no matter where in the world you are, how wealthy or poor you are, whether you are a high-flying executive or a refugee. World Cancer Day is a symbol to remind us that the light at the end of the tunnel can be reached equally by all through the raising awareness and staying vigilant and being prompt with treatment when cancer is detected.