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Around 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries. “Cancer no longer needs to be a death sentence”, WHO says.
The 4th of February was World Cancer Day, a disease that is the second leading cause of death worldwide, and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015.
Globally, nearly one in six deaths is due to cancer, and the number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 2 decades, with around 24 million cases in 2035.
“CANCER NO LONGER NEEDS TO BE A DEATH SENTENCE”
However, on World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted that “cancer no longer needs to be a death sentence”, as the capacity exists to reduce its burden and improve the survival and quality of life of people living with the disease.
“All countries can do more to prevent and treat cancer. We know the main causes. Acting upon them will avoid that many cases occur in the first place. By strengthening the health system response, we can also ensure earlier diagnosis and better access to affordable treatment by qualified personnel, thereby saving millions of lives”, said Etienne Krug, WHO Director for the Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.
In order to achieve this goal, WHO Member States came together around priority actions to ensure cancer care for all, accepting the WHO Assembly resolution "Cancer prevention and control in the context of an integrated approach" .
The resolution aims to “develop standards and tools to guide the planning and implementation of interventions for prevention, early diagnosis, screening, treatment and palliative and survivorship care including for childhood cancers”.
LOW-INCOME COUNTRIES LESS PREPARED
Approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries. Only one in five have the necessary data to drive cancer policy.
In 2017, only 26% of low-income countries reported having pathology services generally available in the public sector. More than 90% of high-income countries reported treatment services are available compared to less than 30% of low-income countries.
BEHAVIOURAL AND DIETARY RISKS
Around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the five leading behavioural and dietary risks:
- High body mass index
- Low fruit and vegetable intake
- Lack of physical activity
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol use
Tobacco use is the most important risk factor. in 2015, 1.69 million people died for lung cancer (22% of cancer deaths).
A SPIRITUAL DIMENSION OF THE DISEASE
Sara Rivas, was diagnosed with a Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in November 2016.
Since then, she has undergone chemotherapy treatment and stem cell auto- transplantation and radiotherapy. Now she is waiting for results.
Rivas says one of the main burdens that come with the disease is loneliness.
“All the people close to me have been able to experience different angles of that loneliness (...) People are with you, but they will not fully understand what you are going through unless they experience it by themselves”.
She especially highlights the kind of loneliness that has to do with her spiritual reality, what she calls “the desert”.
“It is a good solitude. The intimacy with God. A place of trial, but also of rest and provision, of silence and revelation. The place between the promise and the fulfillment, where is proven where your strength comes from and what do you really believe”, she says.
“If you do not really believe what you say, the desert can kill you. It marks a before and after and although it may seem that it is not pleasant, it is a place that I have learned to love, because it has been where God has spoken to my heart in a more intimate way and that has not left me indifferent”.