Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.

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World Cancer Day 2016: “We Can

February 4, 2016

Today is World Cancer Day (WCD), a day when the world again unites in the fight against cancer. Organized by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), World Cancer Day is saving lives by raising awareness about cancer, and pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action.

Each WCD has been more successful than the last. We're seeing more countries, more events, more press mentions and more social media engagement. We're seeing more national cancer action plans, and world leaders committed to reducing premature mortality from cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

Despite this progress, what we are NOT seeing is a clear and tangible commitment of resources from the global health community. There is an egregious disparity between the tremendous burden of cancer and other NCDs and the relatively small amount spent worldwide to reduce the cancer burden. With more than 8 million deaths per year (most of those in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America), cancer alone is responsible for twice as many premature deaths every year as HIV, TB and malaria combined. Moreover, as many women die from cervical cancer every year as from all causes of maternal mortality combined.

Cancer is a true global health and development concer -- draining household resources; depriving children of caretakers; lowering worker productivity; straining poorly-prepared health systems; and jeopardizing extensive prior investments in global health. Despite this heavy and growing burden of cancer, however, less than 2 percent of development assistance for health funding is focused on noncommunicable diseases including cancer.

We are not powerless against this disease. Recent reports by the American Cancer Society highlight declining cancer rates in high-income countries, driven by a long-term commitment to combat cancer. But globally, celebration of that progress is muffled by the rising rate in lower-income countries, where there is less awareness about cancer. As a result, these individuals, too often in pain, seek medical treatment at a later stage, have very limited access to treatment, and face poorer outcomes.

There is much to be done, even in low-resource settings, to improve these outcomes. Currently, highly effective and affordable prevention, early detection, treatment and care options include reducing exposure to cancer risk factors especially tobacco and secondhand smoke; vaccination against infectious causes of cancer, especially HPV and Hepatitis B; screening for treatable cancers, particularly cervical and breast; increasing access to cost-effective treatment; and diminishing suffering by improving access to essential pain medicines. What is missing is the global commitment of resources to implement these proven interventions.

Consistent with the “"We Can. I Can." theme of this year's WCD, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network joins the UICC in a united voice to say:

  • WE CAN work collaboratively, demonstrating that efforts to control cancer and other NCDs are complementary to existing health and development objectives
  • WE CAN continue to share what we already know about cost-effective approaches to prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care
  • WE CAN continue to dispel the myths that undermine the appreciation of resources needed to address the cancer burden
  • We CAN inspire action and take action by stepping up effective advocacy for cancer control and continuing to increase access to prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care
  • WE CAN demand action to address the egregious imbalance between cancer's heavy disease burden and meager global resources addressing that burden
  • WE CAN support the U.S. Government in exercising a strong leadership role in the global fight to control cancer
  • WE CAN speak out more loudly asking our governments and global health donors to value people impacted by cancer as highly as those impacted by other diseases

We CAN and we must work together help prevent death and suffering from cancer across the globe.