One in Two Countries is Unprepared to Prevent and Manage Cancer

Cancer, Global Killer

By:  Caitlin McLachlan, Staff Writer

Each year, about 13 million cancer cases are newly diagnosed.

Cancer is still the leading cause of death worldwide. This is despite the Canadian Cancer Society and the World Health organization estimating that half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living and protective policies.

In a 2012 report, the World Health Organization (WHO) assessed the national ability of 185 countries to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.

Funded partially by the Canadian Public Health Agency, the report concludes that more than half of all countries are unprepared to prevent and manage cancer. Findings issued in the survey revealed “major gaps in cancer control planning and services.”

In February, Dr. Oleg Chestnov of the WHO said in a press release that every country is in need of a comprehensive cancer control program. This program would contribute to reducing risk factors and ensuring appropriate treatment.

“Cancer should not be a death sentence anywhere in the world as there are proven ways to prevent and cure many cancers,” said Chestnov, WHO assistant director-general for non-communicable diseases and mental health.

Specific emphasis is being put on low- and middle-income countries. According to the WHO, only 17 per cent of African countries and 27 per cent of low-income countries have cancer control plans and a budget to support them.

Having a cancer registry will enable these countries to measure one of 25 indicators to prevent and control cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

“Better data on cancer occurrence will help governments to make the most of their limited resources and direct funds and activities to the areas where they are needed most,” says Dr Christopher Wild, director of WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Where does Canada stand?

Although Canada identifies as a high-income country, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) estimates that 500 Canadians are being diagnosed with cancer every day.

The Canadian Cancer registry operates through Statistics Canada. The data they collect is used to identify risk factors for cancer, to plan, monitor and evaluate cancer control programs, and to conduct research in health services and economics.

One example of a cancer control program is the prevention information published by the CCS. It identifies simple lifestyle choices that lower the risk of cancer. The publication highlights nutrition and fitness as key elements in “preventing about one third of all cancers.”

“When you change your diet, your psyche changes and all of this influences the biochemistry in your body, which has a profound effect on healing,” says Susan Morton,  a certified nutritional practitioner.

Morton provides cancer recovery services specializing in dietary and lifestyle plans for cancer prevention and care. After having recovered from thyroid cancer, Morton says she was inspired to help others.

“It was like a light bulb went off, I was so excited,” says Morton. “It opened my eyes to nutrition and the profound difference your diet could make.”

The CCS recommends maintaining a healthy body weight by eating plenty of fiber, fruits and vegetables, while reducing the consumption of fats and sugars.

Morton explains that cutting down on salt and reducing the consumption of animal products, increases our bodies’ natural ability to break down tumours. “Pancreatic enzymes help to reduce tumours and salt is an enzyme inhibitor” says Morton, “cutting down on the salt helps our bodies to reduce tumours.”

The CCS estimates that about 430 Canadians are diagnosed each week with colorectal cancer and they recommend colorectal cancer screening as a way to reduce incidence of the disease. The society has also released a cancer prevention plan that highlights good nutritional choices.

Caitlin McLachlan is a freelance writer/photographer whose passions include the environment, culture, serendipitous animal rescue and the mysterious unraveling of a life lived adventurously.

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