World Cancer Day (WCD) is held annually on the 4th of February. While we live in a time of amazing advancements in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment, many of those who seek cancer care face obstacles around every corner.
WCD aims to raise awareness and to re-imagine a world where millions of preventable cancer deaths are saved, and access to life-saving treatment and care that does not differ in quality according to the patient`s age, gender, geographical location, cultural background, ethnicity, religion, income, sexual orientation, disability, lifestyle or socioeconomic status.
This year’s World Cancer Day’s theme, “Close the Care Gap”, is all about raising awareness of this equity gap that affects almost everyone, in high as well as low- and middle-income countries, and is costing lives.
Did you know?
10 million people die from cancer every year, that is more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined!
Experts project cancer deaths to rise to 13 million by 2030 – if we don’t act now.
Why take action?
More than a third of cancer cases CAN be prevented, and another third can be cured if detected early, and treated properly. It is the year 2022, and we know more about cancer today than ever before! Through investing in research and innovation; extraordinary breakthroughs in medicine, diagnostics, and scientific knowledge have happened, and the more we know, the more progress can be made to reduce risk factors, increase prevention and to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment, and care.
By implementing resource-appropriate strategies on prevention, early detection and treatment – millions of lives can be saved every year!
Since its creation in 2000, World Cancer Day has grown into a positive movement.
Every year, hundreds of activities and events take place all around the globe, gathering communities, organisations and individuals in schools, businesses, hospitals, marketplaces, parks, community halls, places of worship – in the streets and online. Check out the Map of Activities!
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.
Cancer tumours can be divided into three groups:
1. benign (slow-growing, not cancerous and rarely threaten life),
2. malignant (faster growing than benign tumours and have the ability to spread and destroy neighbouring tissue),
3. precancerous (the condition involving abnormal cells which may (or is likely to) develop into cancer).
Cancer is classified according to the type of cell it starts from. There are five main types:
1. 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
2. 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
3. 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
4. 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
5. Brain and spinal cord cancers – these are known as central nervous system cancers. Some are benign while others can grow and spread.
Causes of Cancer
Cancers can be caused by a number of different factors and, as with many other illnesses, most cancers are the result of exposure to a number of different causal factors. It is important to remember that, while some factors cannot be modified, around one third of cancer cases can be prevented by reducing behavioural and dietary risks.
Modifiable risk factors: Alcohol, Being overweight or obese, Diet and nutrition, Physical activity, Tobacco, Ionising radiation, Workplace hazards (asbestos, chemical industry), Infections.
Non-Modifiable risk factors: Age, Carcinogens, Genetics, Immune System.
Types of cancers
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.
Please visit the official World Cancer Day website to find out more about different types of cancers, prevention, early detection and cancer treatment.