February 4, 2019
By: Dr Abha Malik

World Cancer Day 4th Feb, 2019 - Let Your Faith Be Bigger That Your Fear

World Cancer Day takes place every year on 4 February and is the uniting global initiative under which the world comes together to raise the profile of cancer in a positive and inspiring way. Spearheaded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and improving education about the disease alongside calling on governments and individuals across the world to take action. 

2019 will be the first year of the new three-year campaign, ‘I Am and I Will’. The new theme is an empowering call for personal commitment and represents the power of our actions taken now to reduce the growing impact of cancer. This year follows on follows on the back of last year’s tremendous campaign success, including nearly 1,000 activities taking place in 130 countries, over half a million tweets, and more than 50 governments participating in 2018 including the Indian Government.

In 2018, there were more than 18 million new cases of cancer diagnosed, out of which at least 5 million could have been detected earlier leading to better outcomes. Early detection, screening, and diagnosis have been proven to significantly improve patient survival rates and quality of life as well as significantly reduce the cost and complexity of cancer treatment. However, barriers to achieving higher rates of early cancer detection need to be addressed now at the individual, health system, and governmental level to significantly reduce the personal and financial burden of cancer worldwide.

Individual barriers to early detection, screening, and diagnosis

Everyone is susceptible to physical, psychological, or socioeconomic barriers to accessing early cancer detection. Some common barriers individuals come up against are age, masculine gender norms, feelings of shame and fear, and poor health awareness or poor accessibility to screening services, which is common in developing countries like India.

We should all discard feelings of shame and fear, and rigid and regressive cultural beliefs can also keep people from seeking medical care or screening programs.

Health system also has barriers to early detection, screening, and diagnosis

There is also an opportunity to increase awareness among doctors, nurses, and other health practitioners to improve early cancer detection, especially at the primary care level. When suspected cancer patients do get referred for diagnostic testing, limited access to pathology services and diagnostic technologies can hold back health services from delivering early diagnoses and treatment of cancer. This is especially true in low-income countries where there are a large number of late-stage diagnoses – 35% of low-income countries reported that pathology services were generally available compared to more than 95% of high-income countries.

To summarise, in our country there is a huge need for public awareness about this disease, along with combating the regressive cultural beliefs and the stigma of fear and shame that surrounds the perception of cancer. We should all come together and fight the negativity around this disease and instill hope and positivity in the society; that can bring about a culture shift. No government or doctor can help us as much as we can help ourselves.

Dr. Amit Rana, Group CEO Aushealth Global, and PATHSOS (virtual enabled cancer care) said that “ Cancer thrives on delayed presentation in later stages. This is very common in our country. That is why on World Cancer day, we must educate ourselves about the signs and symptoms of this disease and empower citizens to take better notice and visit a healthcare facility in time if needed. Knowledge and awareness are key to defeating this disease.”