February 4th is designated, World Cancer Day, and according to the World Health Organisation, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Each year on this date cancer organisations and support groups the world over organise a variety of activities aimed at increasing awareness of different types of cancer, encouraging early detection and treatment, as well as sharing information on cancer prevention, and continuing to improve the lives of cancer patients and affected friends and families. In St Lucia, Faces of Cancer have chosen to acknowledge World Cancer Day through a number of activities geared toward increasing knowledge and awareness, support of those diagnosed, and fundraising.
The public is invited to support the members of Faces of Cancer St Lucia on Saturday February 2nd at the William Peter Boulevard as a number of cancer support items will be on sale as well as free literature. On Monday February 4th the group invites the public to a special service at the Cathedral at 12:30 p.m. to pray for, and support those battling the disease and their families and friends. World Cancer Day winds down with an informational session, hosted by Faces of Cancer St. Lucia, and presented by St. Lucia’s oncologist, Dr. Owen Gabriel as he explains the state of cancer in St. Lucia. The public is also urged to join Faces of Cancer St. Lucia and Dr. Gabriel at the Cathedral at 5:00 p.m. for a session that promises to be eye opening. The global goal of this year’s World Cancer Day is to dispel common myths and misconceptions associated with cancer. The hope is that through education, we can improve the frequency of early detection, vastly enhance the lives of those affected and decrease the incidence of cancer through prevention strategies. Here we disclose the truth of these common myths about cancer:
Myth 1: Cancer is just a health issue. Truth: Cancer is not just a health issue. It has wide-reaching social, economic, developmental and human rights implications. The social and economic impact of cancer is far reaching. It may be tempting to think of cancer solely as a health issue, but the fact is the disease affects more than just the health of those affected; it also psychologically affects family members and friends and results in a dramatic shift in lifestyle and finances of the patient and their family. Understanding that cancer is not just a health issue allows us to address other factors associated with a cancer diagnosis for example, providing counselling for family and friends of those diagnosed and financial support and guidance during treatment.
Myth 2: Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries Truth: Cancer is a global epidemic. It affects all ages and socio-economic groups, with developing countries bearing a disproportionate burden. The importance of cancer and its impact cannot be denied. The truth is that cancer has a global effect, and of the 7.6 million global reported deaths from cancer in 2008, more than 55% occurred in less developed regions of the world. As a developing nation, it is important that St. Lucians be particularly mindful of this fact, and focus on incorporating prevention strategies as part of their lifestyle, as well as understanding the importance of early detection.
Myth 3: Cancer is a death sentence Truth: Many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured and for many more people their cancer can be treated effectively. It is a common misconception that a diagnosis of cancer is a death sentence but advances in understanding risk and prevention, early detection and treatment have revolutionised the management of cancer leading to improved outcomes for patients. Early detection of cancer is especially important as early stage cancers are less lethal and more treatable than late stage cancers.
Myth 4: Cancer is my fate Truth: With the right strategies, a third of the most common cancers can be prevented Prevention is the most cost-effective and sustainable way of reducing the global cancer burden in the long-term. A healthy lifestyle can substantially reduce cancers that are caused by risk factors such as alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Improving diet, physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight could prevent around a third of the most common cancers. Faces of Cancer hopes that through our World Cancer Day activities we can dispel some of these common myths among the local public.