World Cancer Day is held annually on February 4. By promoting cancer awareness, educating people about the disease, and encouraging governments and individuals around the globe to take action against it, World Cancer Day aims to prevent millions of deaths every year.
The three-year World Cancer Day campaign, which ran from 2022 to 2024, is themed “Close the Care Gap.” The campaign’s initial year, 2022, focused on recognising and comprehending the disparities in cancer treatment worldwide. “Close the Caring Gap: Uniting our voices and taking action” is the theme for this year. This year’s campaign calls on like-minded individuals to band together, strengthen alliances and forge new, creative partnerships in the battle against cancer.
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is a broad class of diseases that can develop in virtually any organ or tissue of the body when aberrant cells grow out of control, cross their usual boundaries, invade nearby body parts or spread other organs. The latter process, known as metastasizing, significantly contributes to cancer-related mortality. “Neoplasm” and “malignant tumour” is also used to describe cancer.
WHO categorises cancer-causing agents through its cancer research agency, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Cancer incidence rises dramatically with age, most likely due to an accumulation of risks for specific cancers that rise with age. Men are more likely to develop lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach, and liver cancers, while women are more likely to develop breast, colorectal, lung, cervical, and thyroid cancers.
Nearly 10 million people died from cancer worldwide in 2020, making it the top cause of death. Breast (2.26 million instances), lung (2.21 million cases), colon and rectum (1.93 million cases), prostate (1.41 million cases), skin (1.20 million cases), and stomach (1.09 million cases) million cases) were the most prevalent types of cancer in terms of new cases.
In 2020, the most common cancer deaths were lung (1.80 million), colon and rectum (916 000), liver (830 000), stomach (769 000), and breast (685 000 deaths). Every year, approximately 400,000 children are diagnosed with cancer. The most common cancers differ by country. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer in 23 countries.
Every year, Africa records approximately 1.1 million new cases of cancer, with up to 700,000 deaths. Breast cancer and cervical, prostate, liver, and colorectal cancers account for nearly half of all new cases on the continent each year. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, stated this.
Around 90% of the more than 400,000 children worldwide who receive cancer diagnoses each year reside in low and middle-income nations. African nations have abysmal survival rates of 20% or less, compared to more than 80% in wealthy countries.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in his message during the 2022 world cancer awareness day, stated that “A renewed effort to curb new cancer cases is urgent; alarming projections are that cancer death rates in Africa will rise exponentially over the next 20 years, outstripping the global average by 30%.” He went on to say that common challenges across the region include a lack of awareness and education, limited access to primary prevention and early detection services, and delays in diagnosis and treatment. There is also a scarcity of palliative care and pain relief.
In 2020, Ghana recorded approximately 24,000 new cancer cases, with 15,000 deaths in a population of more than 31 million people. Breast cancer accounted for 18.7% of new cases, liver cancer 14.4%, cervix uteri 11.6%, prostate 8.9%, non-Hodgkin lymphoma 6.6%, colorectum 4.3%, stomach 4.2%, and other cancers 38.6%. Cancer affects nearly 10,000 men and 14,000 women, according to Globocan 2020 report.
80% of pediatric tumours are treatable, according to Professor Lorna Awo Renner, Head of the Paediatric Oncology Unit at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. She adds, “But this depends on early discovery and ongoing treatment.
Cancer treatment is not covered by Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme. “about 50% of patients used to abandon treatment halfway due to lack of funds. “However, with the help of several charitable individuals and organizations, this figure has been reduced to 15%,” says Professor Renner.
“Working closely with the Ghanaian government, we have helped to build and sustain a high-quality national childhood cancer program with a target of achieving at least 60% survival rate by 2030,” says Dr Francis Kasolo, WHO Country Representative in Ghana.
Cancer is a death sentence: Cancer is not a death sentence. Despite the depressing statistics, cancer is not always fatal. Recovery rates continue to improve as scientists learn more about cancer and develop better treatments.
Cell phones cause cancer: There is currently no evidence that cell phones cause cancer.
Power lines cause cancer; This, too, is a myth. Power lines’ shallow frequency (ELF) magnetic fields are non-ionizing and thus do not cause cancer.
Types of cancers
Cancer called carcinoma develops from epithelial cells (the lining of cells that helps protect or enclose organs). Carcinomas have the potential to spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body through invasion of the surrounding tissues and organs. Breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer are the most prevalent types of cancer in this population.
Sarcoma is a malignant bone or soft tissue tumour (fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves and other connective tissues that support and surround organs). Sarcomas are classified into three types: leiomyosarcoma, liposarcoma, and osteosarcoma.
Myeloma and Lymphoma – Myeloma and Lymphoma are malignancies that start in immune system cells. Since the lymphatic system extends throughout the entire body, lymphoma is cancer that can develop anywhere. Plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that generates antibodies to aid in the fight against infection, are where myeloma (or multiple myeloma) begins to develop. The cell’s capacity to effectively make antibodies may be impacted by this cancer.
Leukaemia is a bone marrow cancer which produces blood cells and white blood cells. There are numerous subtypes; the most prevalent ones are chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and lymphocytic leukaemia.
Cancers of the brain and spinal cord are known as nervous system cancers. Some are harmless, whereas others can multiply and spread.
Among the risk factors are Tobacco use, alcohol consumption, poor diet, inactivity, and air pollution are all risk factors for cancer and other non-communicable diseases.
Hepatitis B and C viruses, as well as some types of HPV, increase the risk of liver and cervical cancer. Infection with HIV increases the likelihood of developing cervical cancer sixfold and increases the risk of developing certain other cancers, like Kaposi sarcoma.
Cancer risk can be reduced by not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, and eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables, according to Cancer Research UK. Regular physical activity and the avoidance or reduction of alcohol consumption. Getting vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B if you belong to a risk group.
Avoiding exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which is mainly brought on by the sun and indoor tanning beds, and/or utilising sun protection techniques; minimising ionizing radiation exposure at work; minimising exposure to radon, a radioactive gas generated by uranium’s natural decay that can build up in structures; and limiting exposure to both outside and interior air pollution.
Early detection and treatment of cancer reduce mortality. Early detection has two components: early diagnosis and screening.
Every cancer kind calls for a different treatment plan, so a precise cancer diagnosis is crucial for the proper treatment. Surgical procedures, radiation, and/or systemic therapies are frequently used in medicine.
Choosing healthy lives, getting vaccinated, and frequent screening for diseases that can be prevented are all ways that we can combat cancer at the individual and community levels by banding together in our words and deeds.
This report was produced under the DUBAWA Non-urban Journalists Mentorship project aimed at promoting a culture of truth and verification in non-urban newsrooms in Ghana with support from Ghana’s US Embassy.