There’s probably not a family in the world that has not been touched by cancer. The disease has taken dear friends and family of mine – a young mother who left a two-month old baby, an older uncle, two of my aunts and a grandmother. For one of those aunts, I had the privilege of caring for her at home in the last few weeks of her life. I was holding her when she passed away. It was nearly 15 years ago but the loss her of is still tangible and painful. Like so many, she deserved more birthdays.
Cancer causes 1 in 8 deaths worldwide and kills 7.6 million people each year. More than half of these deaths happen in less developed regions of the world.
But there are also many, many stories of friends and loved ones in each of our circles who’ve fought and won. One dear friend of mine has been cancer-free for nearly 20 years! With new knowledge and methods, we can prevent nearly one-third of cancer cases.
Today is World Cancer Day, and the American Cancer Society says it is time to fight a few myths:
- Myth 1: Cancer is just a health issue.
- Truth: Cancer is not just a health issue. It has wide-reaching social, economic, development, and human rights implications.
- Myth 2: Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly, and developed countries.
- Truth: Cancer is a global epidemic. It affects all ages and socio-economic groups, with developing countries bearing a disproportionate burden.
- Myth 3: Cancer is a death sentence.
- Truth: Many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured, and for many more people, their cancer can be treated effectively.
- Myth 4: Cancer is my fate.
- Truth: With the right strategies, a third of the most common cancers can be prevented
“We have made important strides in the US in interventions and prevention and bringing down death rates. In developing countries, it is the opposite.” says Ann McMikel, Interim National President for Global Health for the American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society is working with partner organizations around the world to improve on this.
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women in developing countries. It is easily treated when detected early. There is also a vaccine that can prevent it. This is a face of the disease that with political will and focus, we can tackle with tools that we already have at our fingertips.
Controlling the spread of tobacco around the world is also critical. One-third of cancer deaths are tobacco-related. The fight for strong tobacco control policy and methods is a pillar of the American Cancer Society’s global work. They are able to share their many years of US experience, data and success stories with others around the world.
One of the greatest challenges for cancer sufferers in developing countries is the lack of pain management options because of lack of access to morphine. The American Cancer Society is working with partners to promote access to pain control and technologies. Programs are being piloted in parts of Africa, in India and in Haiti to work with health ministries and communities to build supplies and training.
McMikel adds, “We have so much we can share with the world around what it means to be the largest volunteer organization in the world dedicated to cancer control.” The US can help the world fight cancer through raising awareness, teaching people to advocate and ensuring policy makers pay attention to the issues.
- Join today’s Twitter chat with @ACSGlobal at 11 a.m. EST with the Society’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Otis Brawley, as he answers your questions on cancer myths and realities. Follow #worldcancerday to join the conversation.
- From 3-5 p.m. EST you can watch Dr. Brawley participate in a Google Plus Chat with experts from other global organizations including Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the World Health Organization, and Stand Up to Cancer.
- If you are in New York tonight, please take a photo of the Empire State Building lit up blue and orange in support of World Cancer Day and share it with us on @ACSGlobal . Just add #worldcancerday to your post.