I Am and I Will – World Cancer Day 2021

The year is 2025, and 18-year-old Amina in her home on the outskirts of Maiduguri examines her breast as she routinely does, but today the sharp pain that has refused to go away is more pronounced. Seconds later, she feels a small lump. She shines a light and notices some redness. The warning bells go off.

1,500 kilometres away, 35-year-old Femi comes home from the hustle and bustle of trying to eke out a living in the city of Lagos, and as he uses the toilet, he notices again a burning sensation as he tries to urinate. He checks his urine closely, and notices some blood in it. The warning bells go off.

Early the next morning, Femi in Lagos and Amina in Maiduguri get dressed and go to the nearest hospitals to be examined by medical professionals. If the warning bells are right and either or both of them does have cancer, it will not be a death sentence. Because it has been identified early, they will be more likely to respond to effective treatment and have a much greater probability of beating the disease with less expensive treatment.

This is the aim of World Cancer Day celebrated on the 4th of February every year-to save millions of preventable deaths through proper education and awareness, unite humanity in fighting cancer under one banner and encourage governments and individuals across the world to take effective action.

The theme of the World Cancer Day celebrations from 2019-2021 has been “I Am and I Will”. Well, who are you and what will you do?

Day by day, the danger of the many forms of cancer hits closer to home, and the need for personal commitment to harness the power of individual action has become more important than ever.

According to the WHO, Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018 alone. Globally, about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer, and approximately 70% of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The most common cancers – lung cancer, colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer and breast cancer have caused deaths ranging from 627,000 to 1.76 million to annually, yet at least one third of these cases of common cancers is preventable. Common cancer types have high cure rates when detected early and treated by surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy.

Cancer tumours could be benign, that is generally non life-threatening, malignant, that is having the ability to grow rapidly and metastasise to other parts of the body, or precancerous, having the likelihood of developing into cancer Thus, it is important to consult a medical professional immediately you observe signs like unusual lumps or swelling, coughing, breathlessness or difficulty swallowing, unexpected bleeding, unexplained weight loss, a new mole or changes to a mole, complications with urinating, unusual breast changes, a sore or ulcer that won’t heal, heartburn, or indigestion.

Remember, curative treatment may not be an option with a late-stage diagnosis.

Certain risk-factors that predispose people to cancer exist, and it is important today, as it always is, that we remind ourselves to avoid these risks or minimize our exposure to them.

Alcohol, for example, can increase the risk of up to six types of cancers while being obese has also been linked to an increased risk of developing up to 12 cancers. Diets high in red or processed meats, salted foods and meals low in fruits and vegetables have an impact on cancer risks as well. Tobacco smoke contains at least 80 different carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substances, and tobacco use is currently responsible for about 22% of cancer deaths.

Best practices such as regular physical activity help to reduce excess body fat and the cancer risks associated with it, as well as the risks of developing colon, breast and endometrial cancers.

It is important for girls to get vaccinated against the two most common types of HPV to prevent cervical cell changes as well as vagina, vulva, penis and anus cancers.

There’s so much we can all do in our circles of influence to spread the word and help win the battle against cancer. I Am, and I Will!

What does World Cancer Day and its 2021 theme mean to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! And don’t forget to share this post with others

1. https://www.worldcancerday.org/what-cancer
2. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer


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