World Cancer Day
Each year on 4 February, World Cancer Day empowers all of us across the world to show support, raise our collective voice, take personal action and press our governments to do more. World Cancer Day is the only day on the global health calendar where we can all unite and rally under the one banner of cancer in a positive and inspiring way.
Origins of World Cancer Day
World Cancer Day was born on the 4 February 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris. The Paris Charter aims to promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, raise awareness and mobilise the global community to make progress against cancer, and includes the adoption of World Cancer Day.
Who’s behind World Cancer Day?
World Cancer Day is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control, the largest and oldest international cancer organisation dedicated to taking the lead in convening, capacity building and advocacy initiatives that unite the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, promote greater equity, and integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.
Key Cancer Facts
- 9.6 million people die from cancer every year.
- At least one third of common cancers are preventable.
- Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide.
- 70% of cancer deaths occur in low-to-middle income countries.
- Up to 3.7 million lives could be saved each year by implementing resource appropriate strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment.
- The total annual economic cost of cancer is estimated at US$1.16 trillion.
What is cancer ?
Cancer is a disease which occurs when changes in a group of normal cells within the body lead to uncontrolled, abnormal growth forming a lump called a tumour; this is true of all cancers except leukaemia (cancer of the blood). If left untreated, tumours can grow and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic systems, and can affect the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems or release hormones that may affect body function.
Types of cancers
Cancer can be classified according to the type of cell they start from. There are five main types:
Carcinoma – A cancer that arises from the epithelial cells (the lining of cells that helps protect or enclose organs). Carcinomas may invade the surrounding tissues and organs and metastasise to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body. The most common forms of cancer in this group are breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer
Sarcoma – A type of malignant tumour of the bone or soft tissue (fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves and other connective tissues that support and surround organs). The most common forms of sarcoma are leiomyosarcoma, liposarcoma and osteosarcoma
Lymphoma and Myeloma – Lymphoma and Myeloma are cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which runs all through the body, and can therefore occur anywhere. Myeloma (or multiple myeloma) starts in the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies to help fight infection. This cancer can affect the cell’s ability to produce antibodies effectively
Leukaemia – Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and bone marrow, the tissue that forms blood cells. There are several subtypes; common are lymphocytic leukaemia and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia
Brain and spinal cord cancers – these are known as central nervous system cancers. Some are benign while others can grow and spread.
Signs and Symptoms
With so many different types of cancers, the symptoms are varied and depend on where the disease is located. However, there are some key signs and symptoms to look out for, including:
Unusual lumps or swelling – cancerous lumps are often painless and may increase in size as the cancer progresses
Coughing, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing – be aware of persistent coughing episodes, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing
Changes in bowel habit – such as constipation and diarrhoea and/or blood found in the stools
Unexpected bleeding – includes bleeding from the vagina, anal passage, or blood found in stools, in urine or when coughing
Unexplained weight loss – a large amount of unexplained and unintentional weight loss over a short period of time (a couple of months)
Fatigue – which shows itself as extreme tiredness and a severe lack of energy. If fatigue is due to cancer, individuals normally also have other symptoms
Pain or ache – includes unexplained or ongoing pain, or pain that comes and goes
New mole or changes to a mole – look for changes in size, shape, or colour and if it becomes crusty or bleeds or oozes
Complications with urinating – includes needing to urinate urgently, more frequently, or being unable to go when you need to or experiencing pain while urinating
Unusual breast changes – look for changes in size, shape or feel, skin changes and pain
Appetite loss – feeling less hungry than usual for a prolonged period of time
A sore or ulcer that won’t heal – including a spot, sore wound or mouth ulcer
Heartburn or indigestion – persistent or painful heartburn or indigestion
Heavy night sweats – be aware of very heavy, drenching night sweats
Over a third of all cancers can be prevented by reducing your exposure to risk factors such as tobacco, obesity, physical inactivity, infections, alcohol, environmental pollution, occupational carcinogens and radiation.
Prevention of certain cancers may also be effective through vaccination against the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), helping to protect against liver cancer and cervical cancer respectively.
Reducing exposures to other carcinogens such as environmental pollution, occupational carcinogens and radiation could help prevent further cancers.