World Cancer Day is an international initiative held on February 4th which aims to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection and treatment. This movement is facilitated by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and urges individuals, communities, organisations and governments to take action against cancer. The theme for World Cancer Day 2022-2024 is “Close the Care Gap”, and stresses the importance of working together to reduce the impact of cancer worldwide.
What is Cancer?
The term “cancer” refers to a group of diseases characterised by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. There are many different types of cancer, and these diseases can develop in almost any part of the body. Some of the most common types of cancer include breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and skin cancer. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymph system.
Cancer is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Certain genetic mutations can make cells more likely to become cancerous; however, most cancers are caused by a complex mix of genes and exposure to environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke, radiation, and certain chemicals. Some cancers can also be caused by specific infections, including hepatitis and human papillomavirus (HPV).
Why is Cancer Awareness Important?
One of the primary goals of World Cancer Day is to raise awareness of cancer. There are many reasons why this is extremely important for closing the gap of cancer care:
- Early Detection: Raising cancer awareness is largely aimed at encouraging early detection. When cancer is detected early, it is often more treatable and has a better chance of being cured. Many screening tests for cancer, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, can detect cancer before symptoms appear.
- Prevention: Cancer awareness campaigns can also focus on educating individuals about ways to reduce their risk of developing cancer. For example, movements such as World Cancer Day can share information surrounding the risks of smoking and the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise.
- Treatment: Access to treatment can be improved by cancer awareness. This is because people are provided with information regarding cancerous symptoms, and are encouraged to seek medical help early, and therefore receive the treatment they need.
- Support: The profile of cancer-related charities and organisations is often raised through cancer awareness movements. This can help provide much-needed support and funding for people affected by cancer.
- Reduce Stigma: Cancer awareness can also reduce the stigma associated with cancer, helping individuals and communities to understand that it is not a ‘personal failing’ but a disease that can happen to anyone.
Overall, cancer awareness is essential to help individuals, communities, organisations and governments understand the disease, reduce the risk of developing it, and to improve the chances of survival for those who are diagnosed with it.
What can I do to Live a Healthier Lifestyle and Reduce Cancer Development Risks?
There are several ways to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce your risk of developing cancer:
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help to reduce your risk of cancer. Try to limit your intake of processed foods and red meats, and avoid sugary drinks. Click here for more information regarding healthy diets for cancer risk reduction.
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help to reduce your risk of cancer by maintaining a healthy weight and boosting your immune system. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) most days of the week. Research indicates a strong correlation between 60 minutes of daily exercise and cancer risk reduction. Click here to learn more about exercise and cancer prevention.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable cancer deaths. Quitting smoking can greatly reduce your risk of developing lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases.
- Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as breast and liver cancer.
- Protect your skin: UV rays from the sun and tanning beds can increase your risk of skin cancer. Wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30, and limit your exposure to the sun during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest. For more information about protecting yourself from skin cancer, click here.
- Get screened: Regular cancer screenings can detect cancer in its early stages, when it’s most treatable. Talk to your doctor about which cancer screenings are appropriate for you based on your age, gender and family history.
It’s important to note that some cancers are caused by inherited genetic mutations and cannot be prevented via lifestyle choices, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your family history and if genetic testing is recommended.
Hunter Valley Oncology is Here to Help
At Hunter Valley Oncology, we work to improve the lives of patients affected by cancer, as well as that of their family and carers. It is our mission to provide care, guidance and understanding to patients at every stage of their cancer journey. On February 4th – and every day of the year – we want to make a stand for cancer awareness, education and treatment. Close the care gap with us, and get involved on World Cancer Day.