World Cancer Day: Early detection remains crucial

Among the leading causes of death worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 9.6 million people lost their lives to cancer in 2018 [1]. 

Cancer is a group of diseases that attack any organ or tissue in the body. Eventually, the abnormal cells invade adjoining body parts, invading more cancer cells. Without early detection, it can also result in the loss of human life.

The burden of this disease grows continuously; individuals feel the pressure on a physical, emotional and financial level.

World Cancer Day is observed on 4th February to increase awareness of cancer-related issues. Stakeholders like the government, healthcare professionals and the general public are encouraged to work together on the goal of reducing cancer worldwide.

World Cancer Day: how it started

Paris hosted the first World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in 2000. The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) is an organisation that focuses on spreading awareness about early cancer detection.

The day begins with creating campaigns across nations to address cancer’s global impact. Alliances and innovative new collaborations are formed between like-minded individuals through the campaign. As a result of these collaborations, cancer will be addressed faster at a global level.

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World Cancer Day theme for 2023

The multi-year theme for World Cancer Day 2022-2024 is “Close the Care Gap. ” It focuses more on exposure, engagement and opportunities to meet global awareness of Cancer Day [2].

A look at cancer today

A Cancer Research UK analysis predicts that by 2040, more than 500,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer. According to the researchers, if current trends continue, cancer cases will grow by a third to 506,000 in 2040, bringing the number of new cases to over half a million for the first time ever. [3].

Despite falling mortality rates for many cancer types, the absolute number of deaths is predicted to increase by almost a quarter to 208,000. There could be 8.4 million new cancer cases between 2023 and 2040, and 3.5 million deaths.

Charles Swanton, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said the NHS risks being overburdened by the enormous volume of new cancer diagnoses by the end of the decade. Oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and surgeons study for 15 years.

“The government must start planning to give patients the support they desperately need,” he said.

Earlier this week, the NHS announced a new campaign to raise awareness of potential cancer symptoms. A double-decker bus will be touring five cities from Monday to encourage people to seek medical attention if they experience any of these symptoms.

Early cancer diagnosis and lifestyle modifications

Nurses from Cancer Research UK will offer expert advice to the public in Blackburn, Sunderland, Barnsley, Leicester and London as part of the health service’s Help Us, Help You campaign [4]. Although almost 265,000 people were seen by cancer consultants in November, only 78.8 percent were seen within two weeks after their GPs urgently referred them for suspected cancer, well below the 93 percent target [5]. 

Despite record numbers of patients starting treatment, almost two out of five (39 percent) of those promptly referred by their GPs for suspected cancer waited longer than two months [6]. Peter Johnson, clinical director for cancer for NHS national, said: “Thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, our campaigning efforts, and our early diagnosis drives, we are now seeing and treating more people with cancer than ever before, and diagnosing them at a much earlier stage, making them easier to treat.

“Although cancer is becoming more common as people live longer, there is much we can do to reduce the risk, by adopting healthier lifestyles, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking,” Johnson adds.

As cancer cases are rising, Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said: “Worryingly, cancer care is getting worse.”

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Support for practionioers in the field

In the absence of doctors and nurses to identify cancer early and treat it effectively, more people will die of cancer. Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK chief executive, called for immediate action from the government.

The Royal College of Radiologists’ vice-president, Dr Tom Roques, said: “Cancer services are under extreme pressure right now.”. As cancer cases increase and more innovative treatments become available, I worry how we will cope.”

Currently, there us a 17 percent shortfall of clinical oncologists, which is limiting the ability to give high-quality, safe care. Roques adds that investing in the cancer workforce right now is critical for the cancer patients of tomorrow.

Cancer signs and symptoms

Watch out for these symptoms following the acronym CAUTION. Consult your physician if any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks [7]:

  • Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • A sore that does not heal
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Thickening or lump in breast or elsewhere
  • Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
  • Obvious change in wart or mole
  • Nagging cough or hoarseness

Fighting cancer with hope

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are focused on preventing, diagnosing, treating, researching, and funding cancer so that patients can achieve the best possible outcomes.”.

With 92 community diagnostic centres opened since 2021, over 2.8 million tests, scans, and checks have been performed, including cancer tests. Additionally, an investment of £10 million in more breast cancer screening units and upgrades to our software and services was recently announced .

“We have partnered up with among the best and brightest minds who created the Covid Pfizer vaccine to try to develop new cancer vaccines and put record amounts in exciting trials to look at ways of better treating cancer.”

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[1] https://www.who.int/health-topics/cancer#tab=tab_1
[2] https://www.indiatoday.in/information/story/world-cancer-day-2023-date-theme-history-and-significance-2330072-2023-02-03
[3] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/sites/default/files/cancer_in_the_uk_overview_2023.pdf 
[4] https://campaignresources.dhsc.gov.uk/campaigns/help-us-help-you/cancer-earlier-diagnosis/
[5] https://cancer-waiting-times-national-time-series-oct-2009-nov-2022-wit/h-Revisions.xlsx%20(live.com)
[6] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/feb/03/more-than-500000-people-in-uk-will-be-diagnosed-with-cancer-each-year-by-2040
[7] https://www.wattanosothcancerhospital.com/en/all-about-cancer/7-signs-and-symptoms-of-cancer-2

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.