Cancer is a large group of diseases characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells of the body leading to invasion of other organs, tissues and ultimately death. Cancer was the second leading cause of death globally in 2018 according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Cancer burden has continued to increase substantially over the years and as this happens we are all affected one way or the other. This is what makes it a special moment for all of us to align our stories, converge and focus on what we can do to avert this scourge. As we mark World Cancer Day an initiative by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) aimed at raising worldwide awareness, improving education and catalyzing personal, collective and government action, it’s a moment to reimagine cancer care. The UICC calls on us to reimagine a world where millions of preventable cancer deaths are saved and access to life-saving cancer treatments and care is equal for all – no matter who you are or where you live.
“I AM AND I WILL” that’s the declaration that we are making on this day. The difference in how we define ourselves and what we commit to do with regard to cancer.
We all have a story to tell and that story in one way or the other has a way of connecting us, making us relate with synchrony. Cancer is the common conjunction on this day for we all have had an experience with cancer. It can be a loved one diagnosed with cancer, a random person fundraising for the care of their loved one battling cancer or someone we had an attachment to but unfortunately had to lose in an untimely fashion like we did with Chadwick Boseman of Black Panther. The story of cancer is relatable and that’s what makes it important that we have our story, tell it with conviction and not only stop at that but commit to act to ensure that no other person has to battle with cancer from a point of disadvantage.
On the backdrop of a raging global pandemic, access to cancer care has been interrupted either due to supply chain shortfalls, delayed care due to containment measures or even economic constraints that make it impossible for the affected to access care. In order to weed off cancers and to improve the quality of life for people living with cancers, there is need for deliberate action from all of us. We can start by sharing our stories, coalesce our voices, call for action and commit to act in our spaces through:
- Prevention: We can improve on our lifestyles to reduce the risk of contracting cancers through healthy eating, active lifestyles, environmental conservation measures and risk reduction efforts.
- Early Detection: We can take it upon ourselves to go for routine medical check-ups and examinations for early detection, genetic screening and related tests that can help us establish our risk, diagnose early and initiate therapy early enough. This reduces the catastrophic events associated with delayed diagnosis when the cancers have metastasized.
- Prompt Treatment: Once diagnosed we can call for investment in therapies both from research and improving access by governments in our local communities. It’s of no value to have therapies that are not being used by those who need them. Prompt treatment can improve outcomes for cancer patients and we can make it happen.
- Financing: We can advocate for improved funding of cancer care programs to ensure that the sick are not hindered access to care due to financial constraints. I read this morning about the economic struggles patients face to access care especially cancer patients. This can change if and only when we act.
The options are unlimited and that’s where there is power in our diversity. Let’s commit to do our part and integrate the different pillars in cancer control and care.
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