• Friends of Cancer Patients leading the fight against cancer in the UAE
• World Cancer Day 2018 highlights the global gap in accessing early detection, treatment and care
• UICC calls for more equal access to reduce premature cancer and non-communicable disease deaths by 25% by 2025 in line with WHO targets
World Cancer Day on February 4 raises awareness of the millions of people worldwide facing unequal access to cancer detection, treatment and care. With cancer leaders, health professionals and supporters across the world pushing for urgent action to reduce the rate of premature cancer deaths globally, the day is a reminder that access to diagnostic and treatment for all should be a priority.
Global access to screening, health checks and timely treatment needs to be addressed if the target of a 25% reduction in premature deaths from cancer and non-communicable diseases* (NCDs) by 2025 is possible. However, to deliver on this global commitment†, the current inequities in risk factor exposure have to be tackled.
Calling on global partners and stakeholders to take more concerted action, Professor Sanchia Aranda, President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and CEO of Cancer Council Australia, said: “Set in 2011, the World Health Organization’s target to cut premature NCD deaths by 25% within 14 years is coming towards its half way mark. We can meet the target, but more action than ever will be required. Inequality in access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care makes reducing premature deaths from cancer difficult. If we are committed to achieving this goal, we must act quickly and decisively to make access to cancer services more equal all around the world.”
HE Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), a Sharjah-based non-profit organisation dedicated to fighting cancer, used the occasion of World Cancer Day to recount the concrete steps various public and private institutions in Sharjah and the UAE have taken to meet this target.
“Since its inception in 1999, FoCP has worked tirelessly to fight cancer and to support individuals diagnosed and their families. In line with our commitment to the 2011 UN Political Declaration on NCD Prevention and Control; the 2025 global NCD targets, the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recommended national responsibilities based on mutually agreed objectives” said HE. Jafar.
“Last year (2017) saw us with a packed calendar in our ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the importance of early detection of cancer. The Pink Caravan Ride – a pan UAE breast cancer awareness initiative – reached out to 4,873 citizens and residents across the seven emirates during its week-long tour in March – the highest number of people since the campaign started seven years ago. Also, taking place for the first time in the MENASEA region, was the ‘UAE Relay for Life’ 24-hour walkathon, which we conducted in collaboration with the American Cancer Society. The activity attracted hundreds of walkers to raise money for the fight, to show support for those living with the disease and to honour those who are no longer with us,” she added.
“Other activities that Sharjah and FoCP were involved in last year included the second Global NCD Alliance Forum, which was held in Sharjah in December to discuss how we can all make 2018 count. Around 350 delegates and international experts from 68 countries reviewed the roadmap to fighting cancer, with a special focus on the high-level UN meeting on NCDs coming up in September this year. Showing its commitment to tackling cancer globally, the Sharjah Laboratory in London’s Francis Crick Institute was inaugurated in by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Founder and Royal Patron of FoCP, International Ambassador of the World Cancer Declaration for UICC and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC, who is fully funding the clinic,” she added.
Sharjah has long recognised that NCDs are one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces and is the first city in the world to have established a global NCD Alliance forum in 2015 to tackle the issue. To date it has mobilised a highly influential network of 70 advocate countries worldwide that are providing vital platforms to drive local progress.
In mid-January this year, FoCP hosted a specialist two-day oncology roundtable, ‘Paediatric Oncology Roundtable to Transform Access to Global Essentials’ (Sharjah PORTAGE), which brought together 60 senior officials from international health organisations, medical and health experts and heads of private and public sector entities from around the world to discuss the importance of early detection of early detection and combining efforts to save the lives of thousands of children with cancer around in the world. The roundtable was under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, who is vocal in her support for combined global efforts to promote worldwide awareness of paediatric cancer and to provide access to treatment for children suffering with the disease, particularly in low and middle-income countries.
World Cancer Day, led by UICC, rallies the world’s voices against what the World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognised for the first time as the leading cause of global morbidity. Today, there are an estimated 8.8 million deaths from cancer every year. However, it is the low- to middle-income countries who are bearing the brunt, as approximately 70% of deaths occur in developing countries, which are the most ill-equipped to cope with the cancer burden. The starkest area of inequity relates to childhood cancers – a specific group that the WHO underscored in its landmark 2017 Cancer Resolution – with survival rates over 80% in high income countries and as low as 20% in low income countries. Inequalities are also acute in high- to middle-income countries, particularly within certain populations, including the indigenous, immigrant, refugee, rural, and lower-socioeconomic populations.
“In the last year of the ‘We can. I can.’ campaign for World Cancer Day, we hope to inspire real action from governments and civil society in addressing the inequities in cancer diagnosis, treatment and care, which unfortunately largely affects the most vulnerable populations in every country. In Australia, while we maintain some of the best cancer outcomes in the world, national data shows that the gap between those in the highest and lowest socioeconomic groups is continuing to widen over time. These overlooked voices must be more forcefully represented in our discussions this World Cancer Day,” Professor Sanchia Aranda emphasised.
An acute example of a global access gap particularly affecting the disadvantaged and underprivileged is access to radiotherapy. As one of the major methods of treatment for cancer‡, radiotherapy is recommended for 52% of cancer patients . Glaringly, the gap between need and availability is highest in low- to middle-income countries; 90% of low- to middle-income country cancer patients lack access to radiotherapy . Yet, issues of access to this critical treatment also cuts across many countries. In mainland China, there exists a gross shortage of radiotherapy facilities, with access varying widely from province to province. Depending on where you live in England§, patients can face significant variation – anywhere from 20% to 70% – in accessing Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy, an advanced form of radiotherapy treatment .
As an urgent response to the global equity gap and the critical need for an in-country response, UICC today officially launched, Treatment for All. It marks the second new initiative by UICC in as many years to mobilise national action to improve access to diagnosis and treatment for cancer, and is a direct acknowledgement that the cancer burden cannot be alleviated exclusively through prevention to reduce cancer incidence.
Dr. Cary Adams, Chief Executive Officer of UICC, said: “The tsunami of cancer cases anticipated in the coming decades requires a persuasive and robust response at all levels – global and national. Treatment for All, in tandem with its sister initiative, C/Can 2025: City Cancer Challenge, will work to accelerate progress by translating global commitments to evidence-, safety- and quality-based national actions.”
*Non-communicable – or chronic – diseases are diseases of long duration and generally slow progression. The four main types are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
†The global community has committed to reduce premature deaths from cancer and NCDs by 25% by 2025 as set out in the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases
‡The major modalities of treatment for cancer includes radiotherapy, surgery and medicines including chemotherapy
§The wide disparity in cancer services and patient outcomes depending on where you live is often called the Postcode Lottery
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