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Cancer: many suffering and dying prematurely due to slow diagnosis says WHO

The World Health Organisation has launched a report to coincide with World Cancer Day on February 4. It is calling for efforts to be stepped up worldwide to catch the disease earlier.

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Cancer: many suffering and dying prematurely due to slow diagnosis says WHO

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Point of view

Cancer does not have to be a death sentence anymore

Dr Etienne Krug WHO expert on chronic disease and cancer

Millions of people are suffering and dying prematurely because their cancer has not been detected swiftly enough.

That is the finding of a report launched by the World Health Organisation to coincide with World Cancer Day on February 4.

The organisation is calling for efforts to be stepped up to catch the disease earlier.

The WHO wants to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients by ensuring health services focus on prompt diagnosis and treatment of the disease.





What the experts are saying



“Every year, 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 8.8 million die. But cancer does not have to be a death sentence anymore, we know quite a bit about what can be done,” said WHO expert on chronic disease and cancer, Dr Etienne Krug.

Prompt diagnosis of cancer, particularly breast, cervical and colorectal, would lead to more people surviving the disease and cut treatment costs.

“If people are more aware of the symptoms of cancer, they will be able to come forward to a health centre earlier, and thereby hopefully be diagnosed earlier.”

“We would also need to make sure that the health centre is equipped in terms of trained personnel and access to medicines, which unfortunately too often still are expensive in the case of cancer,”



Cancer: the stats



  • Responsible for 1 in 6 deaths globally
  • More than 14 million diagnosed each year
  • Diagnoses to reach 21 million p.a. by 2030
  • 2010 – annual combined cost of healthcare and loss of productivity was $1.16 trillion


Cancer: the challenges



These are greater in poorer countries, according to the WHO.

Diagnostic skills in imaging, laboratory and pathology are rarer than in more developed countries.

The organisation is urging countries to prioritise “basic, high impact and low-cost cancer diagnosis and treatment services.”

The organisation says it is important to reduce the number of cases where patients have to pay for care our of their own pockets, which stops many from seeking help.