Cancer is one of the major causes of morbidity around the world and affects millions of people worldwide with an estimated 12.7 million new cases every year.
According to WHO’s (World Health Organization) Statistics, as of 2015, 8.8 million people died from the said disease, almost 1 in 6 of all global deaths. In addition to that, the number of people diagnosed with the disease can increase up to 70% over the next 2 decades.
The most common cancer cases globally are lung cancer with 1.69 million deaths, liver cancer with 788,000 deaths, colorectal cancer with 774,000 deaths, stomach cancer with 754,000 deaths, and breast cancer with 571,000 deaths.
In the Philippines, the study conducted by the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Human Genetics and National Institutes of Health shows that 189 of every 100,000 Filipinos are diagnosed with cancer, while 4 Filipinos die of cancer every hour. As the years pass by, the numbers continue to increase. The most common type of cancer diagnosed among Filipinos are lung, liver, colon/rectum, prostate, stomach, leukemia, breast, cervix, and ovary.
Cancer is a disease that heavily affects both the patient’s and their family’s lives not only emotionally, mentally and physically, but also financially. Around 70% of the cancer patients come from low and middle income countries; therefore, a lot of people lack the means to get enough treatments and medications. Most of the time, the medical expenses are way higher than the family’s income, resulting to financial ruin or worse, the patient’s death in just a year.
To raise awareness and promote prevention, detection, and treatment of this disease, World Cancer Awareness day is celebrated annually on February 4, and countries all over the globe also dedicate different times of the year to highlight cancer and its causes, symptoms, and treatments.
In November 1974, Proclamation no. 1348 was signed; hence, making it official that every 3rd week of January will be National Cancer Awareness Week in the Philippines. In America, people celebrate World Cancer Day every February but they also have different kinds of cancer awareness events for every month except December. Australians also join the World Cancer Day and zeroes in on Breast Cancer Awareness every October, Lung Cancer Awareness by November, and Ovarian Cancer Awareness by February. In Europe, they celebrate the European Week Against Cancer (EWAC) that takes place between May 25 and 31.
The most common cause is genetics, but there are several factors that can trigger the risk of cancer such as cigarette smoking, infections, radiations, and immunosuppressive medicines after organ transplant. There are also factors that may affect the risk of cancer such as diet, alcohol intake, physical activity, obesity, diabetes, sexual transmitted HPV infection, and certain environmental factors.
In the Philippines, the National Cancer Control Committee has addressed the alarming rate of the epidemic of cancer by developing the National Cancer Prevention and Control Action Plan 2015-2020. This aims to reduce the impact of cancer and improve the well being of people with cancer. Also, several organizations (Gift2Life, Samahang Minamahal ang Atay (Liver Caring Society), Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, Cancer Coalition of the Philippines) are pushing for a more supportive program for cancer patients and helping in promoting awareness and advocacies.
How to prevent Cancer?
Prevention is better than cure.
On top of making healthy choices such as staying away from tobacco, protecting yourself from the rays of the sun, eating healthy, and exercising, early detection is the best way to reduce cases of cancer, according to Dr. Dennis Sacdalan, an oncologist at the Manila Medical Center. Screening procedures like colonoscopy, mammography, Pap smear, MRI, CT Scan, and predisposition testing are available to help catch cancer in its infancy.
Cancer in most cases can be successfully treated; therefore, it is important that we have the knowledge and awareness so we can do something before it hits us, or before it gets worse.
The fight against cancer must be a collective effort of the society, not by affected individuals and and their families alone. One can help by having basic knowledge about this disease, joining advocacies and movements, volunteering in causes that would help the patients, and by simply sharing the information.