Towards getting rid of cancer

Francis Okoye, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria
Taking place under the slogan ‘We can. I can’, World Cancer Day 2017 explores how we can all work together—collectively and as individuals— to reduce the global burden of cancer. Just as cancer affects everyone in different ways, all people have the power to take action to reduce the devastating impact that cancer has on individuals, families, communities and the country as a whole.

In a webinar organized by Citizen News Service, lung cancer expert Dr Navneet Sigh, senior tobacco control expert with the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union) Anne Jones, and cancer survivor Nita Mullick mapped out steps towards reducing preventable cancer deaths, in keeping with the sustainable development goals. Dr Singh revealed that 30% of all cancer cases are of lung cancer, and it is most common in men. It has a high fatality rate as 5 out of 6 patients die in developing countries. Smoking is a very high and yet avoidable risk factor for lung cancer.

Educationist Ms Nita Mullick, a breast cancer survivor who has fought and conquered the disease, serves as an inspiration to all of us. Nita has had a family history of cancer, having lost her father to prostate cancer in 1975. Her sister suffered from breast cancer in 2006. In 2013 Nita was diagnosed with breast cancer. At one time she thought that she was going to die. But then she overcame her negativity. She became determined to fight the disease. Her positive attitude along with strong family support helped her tide over the toxic post operative treatment phase. All through her treatment, she continued teaching. According to her, early detection of cancer saves life. Her sane advice is— Go for regular check ups, do regular breast examination, accept your cancer, and remove negative thoughts. Do not hide your cancer as early detection/diagnosis followed by immediate treatment is key to getting cured.”

Her sister Rita, who is also a cancer survivor, said in the webinar that people need to become more aware of cancer and the social stigma and fear surrounding the disease must be dispelled. Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors of NCDs, including cancers, cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes and chronic lung disease. It is therefore vital that measures to reduce tobacco use are integrated into any strategy to tackle NCDs
  • NCDs kill 38 million people each year, with 82% of premature deaths from NCDs occurring in low and middle income countries.
  • Tobacco use is the single biggest avoidable cause of cancer globally. Tobacco can be smoked in the form of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, bidis, and shisha; or it can be chewed or taken as snuff. All forms of smokeless tobacco can cause cancer of the mouth, gullet and pancreas, while smoking increases the risk of 14 types of cancer, including lung cancer. In fact, smoking accounts for more than 20% of all cancer deaths worldwide. People who do not smoke can also develop tobacco related cancers through exposure to second hand smoke.  
  • Tobacco does not contribute to economic development, but rather costs countries more than US$ I trillion each year in healthcare costs and lost productivity.
We can get rid of tobacco related cancer through tobacco control laws including increased tobacco taxation, (and using the money from such tax for health promotion), banning smoking in public places, ban on tobacco advertising, promoting and sponsorship, among others. Most smokers have very little knowledge of the great risk it poses to themselves and to others. Evidence from high income countries shows that mass media campaigns too can help promote smoking cessation, and contribute to reduction in tobacco use and therefore to tobacco related illnesses and associated costs. Along with quitting tobacco and smoking, eating a healthy diet, screening programmes, HPV vaccination, and strengthening of public healthcare systems will go a long way in controlling cancer.

Francis Okoye, Citizen News Service - CNS
February 14, 2017