Today is World Cancer Day and this year the focus is on prevention by early diagnosis.
Last year there were more than 18 million new cases of cancer diagnosed globally, according to the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).
The organisation said five million of those cases, which included breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers, could have been detected sooner and treated more effectively.
“This World Cancer Day, we want people to know that many cancers can be managed and even cured, especially if they’re detected and treated as early as possible.
"By detecting cancer at its earliest stage, we seize the greatest opportunity to prevent millions of avoidable deaths worldwide,” the UICC's chief executive officer Dr Cary Adams said.
As such, the UICC has launched a three-year campaign called "I am and I will", which is calling on governments, the health community, and individuals to raise awareness of cancer prevention.
Social media users shared their pledges of how they would spread the word.
Early detection can save lives and money
Millions of cancer cases are being found late, which can lead to more costly and complex treatment. Studies in high-income countries have shown that treatment for early-diagnosed cancer patients is two to four times less expensive than treating those diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer.
“Cancer thrives on late presentation of the disease. The delay allows it to spread and cause damage totally unchallenged. That is why, on this World Cancer Day, I urge you all to educate yourselves with the signs and symptoms of cancer and to not be afraid to seek help immediately," said UICC President HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan.
"Equally, I urge governments to prioritise and systemise early detection and screening programmes to allow for better access and to give all a fighting chance to beat cancer,” she added.
UICC also warned that feelings of shame and fear can also keep people from seeking medical care or tests. One in four people would not seek medical attention after discovering a potential cancer symptom due to fear of the diagnosis, according to a UK report.
Men may also be prevented from seeking diagnosis due to gender norms and a lack of men's health promotion.
The group and its members in 170 countries are calling on governments to improve measures for cancer prevention by, treatment, and care, which it says can save up to 3.7 million lives annually.
Medical practitioners can also benefit from becoming more aware of early detection. A study found that when patients presented potential cancer symptoms and experts suspected it, a weak referral system means they can be prevented from referring such patients on to pathology services for diagnostic testing, which leads to delays in treatment.
This is especially true in lower-income countries where 35% of low-income countries reported that pathology services were generally available compared to more than 95% of high-income countries.