10 million people die each year from cancer.
That’s more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
By 2030, experts project cancer deaths to rise to 13 million, If we don’t act. Lets Spread the word!
What happens when we act?
More than one third of cancer cases can be prevented. Another third can be cured if detected early and treated properly. By implementing resource-appropriate strategies on prevention, early detection and treatment, we can save millions of lives every year.
Today, we know more about cancer than ever before. Through investing in research and innovation, we have witnessed extraordinary breakthroughs in medicine, diagnostics, and scientific knowledge. The more we know, the more progress we can make in reducing risk factors, increasing prevention and improving cancer diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and care.
In recent years, the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies have recognised the urgent need for a global health commitment. When leaders speak up and take action we give ourselves a chance to make history and to move towards a world without cancer.
Today, more than half (65%) of cancer deaths are happening in the least developed parts of the world, such as Nigeria. Even if you live in a higher income country, inequities still exist among lower-income, indigenous, immigrant, refugee and rural communities. Equitable access to cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care can save lives.
Through raising the public and political literacy and understanding around cancer, we reduce fear, increase understanding, dispel myths and misconceptions, and change behaviours and attitudes.
Closing the gap in cancer care
Half the world’s population lacks access to the full range of essential health services. When it comes to cancer, many of us are denied basic care, despite the fact that we live in a time of awe-inspiring advancements in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
This is the equity gap – and it’s costing lives. People who seek cancer care hit barriers at every turn. Income, education, geographical location and discrimination based on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability and lifestyle are just a few of the factors that can negatively affect care. The most disadvantaged groups are also more likely to have increased exposures to a host of other risk factors, like tobacco, unhealthy diet or environmental hazards.
The gap affects everyone. You might feel like the equity gap doesn’t impact you personally, but it likely does affect someone you know. While it’s more pronounced in low- and middle-income countries, well-resourced countries show dramatic disparities too. It’s almost guaranteed that the gap affects you or people in your community.
We can close the gap. The reality today is that who you are and where you live could mean the difference between life and death. It isn’t fair. But we can change this.
It’s about me and you; it’s about everyone
The equity gap is a reality for all countries everywhere, high- and low-income alike, and negatively affects people from all walks of life.
- For white women in the US, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is 71%. For black women, the rate is just 58%.
- In New Zealand, Māori are twice as likely to die from cancer as non-Māori.
- Childhood cancer survival rates are over 80% in high-income countries but as low as 20% in low-income countries.
- More than 90% of cervical cancer mortality occurs in low- and middle-income countries.
- Cancer kills nearly 10 million people a year and some 70% of those are aged 65 or older, yet older populations face disproportionate barriers to effective treatment.
- In refugee populations, cancer is more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, leading to worse outcomes.
- Due in part to discrimination from healthcare practitioners, cancer screening among transgender people is lower than in the rest of the population.
- There are notable differences in cancer-related outcomes for rural and nonrural patients, even in high-income settings such as the US.
Progress points to a better future
Where there is progress, there is hope. When people unite, when communities rally around the vulnerable and when individuals innovate and collaborate across borders, change is within reach.
Here are some examples that offer hope.
- In Nigeria, the Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre helped patients navigate and access earlier cancer diagnosis and treatment with the launch of the digital tool Oncopadi.
- In Canada, several organisations collaborated across sectors on a series of measures aimed at closing the gap in healthcare for indigenous populations.
- Around the world, governments raised USD 8.817 billion in 2021 for Gavi, a global health partnership, to provide 84 million girls in low-resourced regions with HPV vaccinations to protect them from cervical cancer.
- Progress can take many forms, whether it’s a new partnership for delivering better screening services to rural communities or a neighbourhood banding together to provide transport to cancer treatment for a fellow resident. Many equity gaps and injustices remain, but they can be solved with innovative ideas and actions if we work together.
The goal is simple: health equity now
The cancer care gap is not inevitable. Our systems can be reimagined, a person’s situation can be improved, their knowledge about cancer can be increased and their access to services made easier.
Collectively, we can reduce inequity by:
- educating the public about cancer prevention;
- equipping healthcare professionals with skills and knowledge including about how inequity influences cancer care;
- strengthening primary health care delivered in communities;
- addressing through policy and programmes some of the social and economic factors that can negatively affect people’s health;
- increasing the resources – meaning both money and people – dedicated to cancer research, and tracking the burden of cancer nationally to more effectively shape our investments;
- implementing country-specific cancer prevention and control plans that address each country’s unique needs and resources.
As individuals, we have an important role to play too. How? By raising our voices and pressure governments to address the root causes of these inequities and to treat cancer as an important health issue, and by challenging – directly, vocally and unwaveringly – stigma and discrimination in all its forms.
We should never underestimate the power of cooperation and collective action to save lives. Who are you and what can you do today, Feburuary 4, 2022? Speak up, stand up and take action together this #WorldCancerDay #OshobabaHealthTunnel #CloseTheCareGap
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