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Reduce the burden of cancer

Geraldine Panapasa
Sunday, February 25, 2018

FIJI'S national adviser for non-communicable disease, Dr Isimeli Tukana, did not mince his words when he said every Fijian should work together to reduce the burden of cancer.

Our article on Page 2 today on the reality of cancer in Fiji paints a distressing picture of this public health concern.

Recent statistics from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services reveal that 1100 new cases of cancer are recorded in Fiji every year and on average, about 700 people die annually from the disease.

In 2015, 8.8 million people worldwide died from cancer and according to the World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory team, the data translated to nearly one in six of all global deaths.

According to WHO, cancer is relatively characterised by the growth of abnormal cells beyond their usual boundaries that can invade adjoining parts of the body or spread to other organs.

Nearly every family in the world is touched by cancer. It is a disease that can shatter families and communities, and one that also bears an economic cost to the nation.

In the US, the estimated total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010 was $US1.16 trillion ($F2.34tn).

But there is hope in the fight against cancer and according to Dr Tukana, cancer can be prevented and cured if detected early, if people make a habit of getting screened for cancer.

Early detection and presentation means better chances of treatment. It means reducing the burden of cancer.

When we talk about the burden of cancer, we also talk about prevention, avoiding risk factors and putting into place effective strategies to reduce the risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

Some of the known risk factors for cancer are tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity — avoiding these factors and making lifestyle changes are important.

Dr Tukana's comments at the launch of 2018 World Cancer Day at Albert Park in Suva yesterday was a stark reminder of the need to reflect on what we could do as a survivor, a co-worker, a friend, employer, caregiver, student, family, organisation, community and a nation to fight cancer.

The 2018 World Cancer Day theme "You can and I can prevent cancer" challenges us to accept the reality that cancer does not discriminate, it knows no gender or age.

Let's join in the fight against cancer. Reduce the burden, reduce the risk factors, get screened early and make lifestyle changes today that can and will save your life or the life of someone you love.

It's not too late to make the change.

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