Winning the fight against cancer

Dr P S Sarma, CNS Correspondent, India
A key international awareness day on the global health calendar is World Cancer Day which takes place every year on the 4th of February to unite the world under one banner in its fight against cancer. World Cancer Day was established by the Paris Charter adopted at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris on February 4, 2000.

This Charter aimed at promoting research for the cure as well as prevention of the disease, upgrading the provider services to the patients, sensitising the common opinion, and mobilising the global community—individuals and governments-against cancer. In its Article 10, the Charter established that February 4 would therefore be World Cancer Day, so that the Charter of Paris would remain in the hearts and minds of people around the world.

The tagline for World Cancer Day 2018 is ‘We can. I can’, and explores how everyone – as a collective or as individuals – can play a part to reduce the global burden of cancer. Just as cancer affects everyone in different ways, everyone has the power to take action to reduce the impact that cancer has.

World Cancer Day is a chance to reflect on what we can do, make a pledge and take action. Every year 10 million people are diagnosed and more than 6 million die of cancer. It is estimated that this year alone, nearly 8 million people would die of cancer, and if left unchecked, the number of deaths will increase to 13.2 million per year by 2030. There is an urgent need for action to raise awareness of the disease and to develop practical strategies to reduce the burden of cancer.

The top 5 cancers that affect the Indian population are: Breast, Cervical, Oral, lung and colorectal cancers. Worldwide too the most common cancers are lung cancer (12.3%), breast cancer (10.4%) and colorectal cancer (9.4%)

The most common sites for respiratory tract cancers are India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Cancer of cervix is most common in India and Indonesia. Cancer associated with tobacco constitutes 44.6% of cancer in men and 20% in female.

In a recent webinar organised by Citizen News Service (CNS) in the lead up to World Cancer Day 2018, on the topic ‘How can we accelerate progress towards reducing global cancer burden?” one of the panelists stressed upon the importance of palliative cancer care, especially in the last stages of the disease. Shobha Warrier, a senior journalist from India, shared that she lost her husband to lung cancer 4 years ago, just 5 months after getting diagnosed. But in the absence of being given any information on palliative care by the doctors, his last months were spent in misery. Palliative care is rarely discussed with the cancer patients and their families in India, leading to avoidable huge expenditures and physical agony. Shobha cited the example of Dr M R Rajagopal—the father of palliative care in India- who roots for palliative care, especially for the terminally ill cancer patients through management of their physical pain. While medicine focuses on the disease only, palliative care looks at the person and the family. Both are equally important. Unfortunately, most people have absolutely no idea about palliative care. Palliative care is an important tool to at least reduce the impact of cancer on the patients and their near ones.

With the recent adoption of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global health is entering a new era. Today, more than ever, a global commitment is needed to advance progress in the fight against cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). All of us need to spread the word and create a global awareness of the disease in international media and global health and development programs. Professional bodies like national medical associations, cancer societies, etc. have a major role to play in this regard.

Let us all unite and rededicate ourselves to fight against cancer

Dr PS Sarma, Citizen News Service - CNS
February 19, 2018