Reining the galloping march of cancer

Francis Okoye, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria
A webinar organized by Citizen News Service, (CNS) to mark the World Cancer Day 2018, presented an online discourse on how to accelerate progress towards reducing global cancer burden. As we all know, governments across the world have committed to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and reducing premature mortality due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by one-third by 2030, is among these targets.

Global specialists from the field of cancer focused on the ways and means to accelerate progress towards these goals and targets, and  to reduce global cancer burden. The webinar also raised the very neglected issue of palliative care that is almost non existent in most countries.

One of the leading causes of death worldwide, cancer knows no global boundaries, and can attack any part of the body, with the most common killer among them being cancer of the lungs in men, and breast cancer in women. Cancer arises from the transformation of normal cells into tumor cells in the body in a multi stage process that generally progresses from pre-cancerous lesions to malignant tumors.

Investing in cancer control

Dr Saunthari Somasundaram, Chairperson of World Cancer Congress 2018 Host committee, President and Medical Director of National Cancer Society of Malaysia, and Board member of UICC (Union for International Cancer Control) stressed upon the need for strong leadership, not only from policy makers, but also from other leadership sectors. She said that in countries like Malaysia, while economic wealth had grown, budgets of social and health sectors have not increased proportionately. “We must invest in national cancer registry, and strengthen primary healthcare to battle the twin problems of late diagnosis and access to treatment for cancer patients”.

Keeping cancer on the global health agenda

Thuy Khuc-Bilon, World Cancer Day Campaign Manager at UICC advocated for having dialogues and conversations around cancer, and wanted governments to keep cancer on the global  health agenda. “Action is needed by governments as well as by individuals”, she said.

Controlling cancer

Renowned chest physician Prof Dr Surya Kant listed smoking and air pollution, including indoor air pollution arising from use of biomass fuel, as the most common risk factors for lung cancer in India, where lung cancer constitutes 6.9% of all new cancer cases and is responsible for 9.3 % of all cancer related deaths in both sexes. Prof Kant stated that “Smokers have a 10 fold increased risk of lung cancer than nonsmokers, while in heavy smokers this risk becomes 20 fold. Prof Kant advocated smoking cessation, dietary changes, lifestyle modifications and control of air pollution—as these can go a long way in preventing lung and other types of cancers.

“While obesity, excess alcohol consumption, and smoking increase the risk of lung cancer, diets rich in onion and garlic, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, fish, milk, yogurt, curd, are all beneficial against the development of lung cancer. Spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, grapes and oranges are scavengers for carcinogens and help in the prevention of lung and other types of cancers. We should also go for afforestation in a big way by planting 11000 million trees worldwide, and stop the use of biomass fuel”, he advised.

Francis Okoye, Citizen News Service - CNS

February 24, 2018