World Cancer Day 2015
A cure for cancer. It’s a radical concept, a goal some believe is practically impossible and certainly unlikely in our lifetimes. Yet the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), an international organization founded in 1933 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, boasts a membership of over 800 organizations across 155 countries, featuring the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes and patient groups. Baron & Budd is proud to support the UICC’s mission to tackle the growing cancer crisis on a global scale.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015, has been declared World Cancer Day by the UICC. This year the international campaign will focus on the positive by embracing the theme: Cancer: It is not beyond us. The four areas of focus for this year’s movement will take a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting the solutions that do exist and how they can be harnessed at an individual, community and governmental level to mobilize solutions and embrace positive attitudes about what is possible:
Healthy Life Choices
In many cultures, the stigma associated with cancer perpetuates misconceptions about the disease, which stifles efforts to raise awareness about cancer prevention, healthy behaviors and seeking early detection and treatment. Research shows that almost fifty percent of common cancers can be prevented through reducing alcohol consumption, cessation of smoking, embracing healthier diets, and increasing physical activity. Beyond those risk factors, awareness about environmental exposures, such as ultraviolet radiation, and occupational exposures, such as asbestos, is critical to creating an environment for healthy living in our communities.
For many cancers, including breast, cervical, colorectal, skin and oral cancer, the benefits of early detection are clear. However, in many low-income populations all over the world, the value of early detection and the importance of seeking care when symptoms arise are not understood, even among healthcare professionals.
Strategies can be developed for bringing education about symptoms and early detection into low-resource communities. Fostering greater awareness about early detection is possible in many community settings, including the workplace, which can be an effective communication channel for educational messages. Many pipefitting unions across the United States, for instance, instituted health screenings for their members during the 1990s and 2000s so that X-rays could be taken to determine the presence of lung scarring from asbestos fibers. People who have worked with or around asbestos should ask their healthcare provider to perform an X-ray of the lungs, which can then be reviewed by a pulmonologist or radiologist qualified as a B-reader, a specialist who knows how to tell the type of scarring made by microscopic asbestos fibers apart from scarring caused by smoking and other contaminants.
Women who have spent years shaking the dust and debris from their husbands’ work clothes before putting them in the washing machine are at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease or mesothelioma cancer just like the men who wore those work clothes in an asbestos-laden work environment. Asbestos is not gender-specific. This deadly carcinogen does not discriminate!
The UICC believes that investment in continuing professional development to equip healthcare workers with appropriate tools and knowledge to recognize early signs and symptoms of some cancers should be tailored to each country’s resources. Awareness of early detection is a first step to improving a cancer outcome because some cancers are less lethal at early stages and are more treatable than late-stage cancers.
Treatment For All
World Cancer Day organizers believe that all people have the right to equal access to high-quality, effective cancer treatment and services, regardless of geography and without suffering economic hardship as a result. Cancer in all its forms is a complex disease requiring a multi-faceted approach to treatment. Health systems in third-world countries can be strengthened by addressing current barriers to the delivery of effective, high-quality cancer services. This includes access to prevention, early detection, proper diagnosis, treatment and palliative care, as well as social support that addresses the full impact of cancer on the emotional, mental and physical well-being of patients, their families and caregivers.
The UICC strives to improve access to affordable treatment for cancer throughout the world. Guided by World Health Organization (WHO) protocols, national authorities in every country are urged to identify a list of essential cancer medicines for training and supply, in combination with development of clinical guidelines for health care providers. Radiotherapy has proven to be a cost-effective approach to cancer treatment in established and developing nations alike. But greater awareness is needed among policy makers in low-income countries of the benefit of using modern chemotherapy and radiation, as well as the value of reducing the financial toll of cancer on individuals, families and economies by establishing universal health coverage throughout the world.
Quality of Life
Understanding and responding to the full impact of cancer on a person’s emotional, mental and physical wellbeing will maximize quality of life for patients, their families and caregivers. In many cultures cancer remains a taboo issue. People living with cancer are stigmatized and face discrimination that may prevent them from seeking care. In addition to the physical effects of some cancer treatments, like impaired fertility, sexual dysfunction, hair loss and weight fluctuation, the stigma of the disease can cause their partners to reject them, leading to further depression and a diminished quality of life.
Likewise, the psychological toll of caring for someone living with cancer cannot be understated. Caregivers, too, experience distress, depression, and declines in their mental and physical health, not to mention the toll on a caregiver’s career, which may suffer from all the hours spent caring for a person with cancer.
The UICC believes that maintaining social support networks and talking about cancer and the toll it exacts is crucial for both the person living with cancer and the caregiver. Support can come from many sources – partners, friends, family, healthcare professionals, counselors and support groups. Cancer patients and their families should be empowered to have greater control over the choices that influence their health and well-being and preserve their dignity at all stages throughout the cancer journey.
Fostering communities and health systems throughout the world which support the highest quality of life is a key mission of the Union for International Cancer Control. Raising public awareness about some of the causes of cancer in our occupational environment, such as asbestos, and ensuring that mesothelioma cancer victims are given access to high quality care and treatment by seeking equitable compensation for the harm to these victims caused by greedy asbestos manufacturers, is a founding tenet of Baron & Budd’s philosophy.
Like the UICC, Baron & Budd supports the vision of several organizations dedicated to eradicating asbestos disease all over the world. In addition, we promote awareness about the fact that asbestos continues to be used widely in developing countries and, amazingly, is still not banned in the United States!
No matter who you are, you, too, can make a difference by getting involved with the UICC or with one of the other causes Baron & Budd supports, such as the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP). So on February 4th let’s take a moment to pause and reflect, not only on the grave harm occupational toxins like asbestos have wreaked upon innocent people all over the planet, but also on the many legions who are striving, through groups like the UICC, to provide better support and awareness of the supreme toll cancer takes on its victims and their families by sponsoring events like World Cancer Day 2015.