The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, on the occasion of World Cancer Day, that the breast tumor is already the most frequent oncological disease in the world, surpassing the lung tumor for the first time, according to statistics published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in December 2020.
For this reason, the United Nations body is going to start carrying out a series of consultations in order to establish a new global initiative for breast cancer, which it hopes to launch in 2021. The objective is to reduce deaths from this cause, improve early detection and guarantee access to “quality” healthcare.
In the past two decades, the total number of people diagnosed with cancer nearly doubled, from about 10 million patients in 2000 to 19.3 million in 2020. Currently, one in 5 people worldwide will develop cancer during their life, although the forecast is that diagnoses will increase in the coming years, with the incidence doubling in 2040.
Likewise, the number of cancer deaths has also increased, from 6.2 million in 2000 to 10 million in 2020. And it is estimated that more than one in six deaths is due to cancer. While lifestyle changes, such as unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyle, tobacco and alcohol use have contributed to increased cancer burden, a significant proportion can also be attributed to increased longevity, as increases the risk of developing cancer.
A scenario that, in the opinion of the WHO, highlights the need to increase investment both in the prevention of cancer and in its approach, focusing especially on breast, cervical and childhood tumors.
LATE DIAGNOSIS AND LACK OF ACCESS TO THERAPY AGGRAVATED BY PANDEMIC
On the other hand, the agency has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problems of late-stage diagnosis and lack of access to treatment, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Also, and in addition to having to deal with the interruption of services, people living with cancer also have a higher risk of suffering a serious illness from COVID-19 and even dying.
A WHO survey conducted in 2020 indicated that cancer treatment had been interrupted in more than 40 percent of the countries surveyed during the pandemic. Findings that have been supported by published studies indicating that delays in diagnosis are common, while discontinuations and discontinuation of therapy have increased significantly. Meanwhile, clinical trial enrollment and research output have declined.
Finally, the WHO has recalled that cancer is also one of the leading causes of death in children and adolescents, with an estimated 400,000 children diagnosed each year. On the International Day of Childhood Cancer, next February 15, WHO will publish a practical guide for policy makers on strengthening childhood cancer programs.
It will also launch a new assessment tool to facilitate the collection of harmonized data and allow rapid and real-time interpretation of the data collected on cancer among children; and an online community of practice information clearinghouse on childhood cancer.
“Breast, cervical and childhood cancers have a high chance of being cured if diagnosed early and treated properly. On this World Cancer Day, WHO is advancing with our partners around the world in their efforts both to prevent and control cancer and to provide support to all people living with cancer, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances, “he concluded.