World Cancer Day is on Thursday 4 February 2021, and Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is standing together with all people, organisations and countries around the world uniting in the fight against the global cancer epidemic.
Now in its 21st year, World Cancer Day is an initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). This is an international agency dedicated to taking the lead in convening, capacity building and advocacy initiatives that bring together and support the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden.
UICC strives to ensure that cancer control continues to be a priority in the world health and development agenda. It has over 1100 member organisations from more than 170 countries worldwide. Members from the UK include the charities Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Breast Cancer Now, Lymphoma Action, ecancer and Leukaemia Care.
The worldwide impact of cancer is devastating, with statistics indicating that 9.6 million people die every year from cancer in the world. This is greater than the number who die from HIV / AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. By 2030, experts project that cancer deaths will rise to 13 million per annum unless there is significant action taken.
In Scotland, around 35,000 people each year are told the awful news that they have cancer. This number is increasing and can be partially attributed to the nation’s ageing population as life expectancy increases, but worldwide a multitude of factors exist, including poverty, lack of education, unhealthy lifestyles and poor healthcare.
Each year on World Cancer Day, hundreds of activities and events take place around the world, gathering communities, organisations and individuals in schools, businesses, hospitals, marketplaces, parks, community halls and places of worship. This year, events will primarily be digitally focussed as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
As with 2020, this year’s World Cancer Day’s theme, ‘I Am and I Will’, is all about you and your commitment to act. No single person, organisation or country is going to beat cancer on its own. But if we work together, we can make faster progress in reaching an international goal set of 75% of people diagnosed surviving cancer by 2034.
Despite the present circumstances, Cumbernauld citizens can play their part in World Cancer Day 2021 in by raising awareness amongst friends and family, supporting cancer charities, helping those going through cancer, getting advised cancer screenings and health checks, and looking out for signs and symptoms in themselves and other people. By doing these things on a regular basis, you might just save a life.
If you would like to support by donating, there are many cancer charities which rely on fundraising to provide vital services in the fight against cancer, including Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Support Scotland, Maggie’s Lanarkshire, Bowel Cancer UK and Breast Cancer Now, to name just a few.
Over the last year, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub has published feature articles to raise awareness of breast cancer, childhood cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer. Now we take a closer look at cancer in general and what to do if you have any concerns about cancer through the below information.
A KEY INTRODUCTORY INFORMATION GUIDE TO CANCER
What is Cancer?
We all hear the word ‘cancer’, but what really is it and what do we mean? Cancer is not a single disease with a single type of treatment. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.
The root of cancer is in the body’s cells. Cells are tiny building blocks that make up the body’s organs and tissues. Cells receive signals from the body, telling them when to grow and when to divide to make new cells. This is how our bodies grow and heal. These cells can become old, damaged or no longer needed. When this happens, the cell gets a signal from the body to stop working and die
Sometimes these signals can go wrong, and the cell becomes abnormal. The abnormal cell may keep dividing to make more and more abnormal cells. These can form a lump, called a tumour.
It’s important to know that not all tumours signal cancer. Doctors can tell if a tumour is cancerous by taking a small sample of cells from it. This is called a biopsy. The doctors examine the sample under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A tumour that is not cancer (a benign tumour) may grow, but it cannot spread to anywhere else in the body. It usually only causes problems if it grows and presses on nearby organs.
A tumour that is cancer (a malignant tumour) can grow into nearby tissue. Sometimes cancer cells spread from where the cancer started (the primary site) to other parts of the body. They can travel around the body in the blood or through lymph fluid which is part of the lymphatic system. When these cancer cells reach another part of the body, they may grow and form another tumour. This is called a secondary cancer or a metastasis.
Some types of cancer start from blood cells. Abnormal cells can build up in the blood, and sometimes the bone marrow. This is where blood cells are made. These types of cancer are sometimes called blood cancers.
The most common types of cancer in Scotland are breast, lung and colorectal cancers in women, and prostate, lung and colorectal cancers in men. Together, these account for over 50% of all cancers experienced.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Cancer?
Whilst we know there are many different types of cancer, we do not know all the causes. But we do know about the possible factors that can affect your risk of developing cancer. Some people make lifestyle changes to try and reduce this risk. Changes can include stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, keeping to a health weight and following recommended alcohol guidelines.
Other ways in which you can reduce your risk of cancer include protecting yourself from exposure to the sun, get vaccinated against certain viral infections (such as hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV)), and avoiding risky behaviour such as unsafe sex or sharing needles.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cancer?
Knowing how your body normally looks and feels can help you be aware of any changes that could be caused by cancer. There are many different symptoms of cancer. Common symptoms including unexplained bleeding, unexplained weight loss, a lump or swelling, or unexplained pain.
In most cases, these symptoms are caused by something other than cancer. But it’s important not to ignore these symptoms, particularly if they persist and are causing problems. There are simple things you can do daily to check for signs and symptoms of cancer, such as checking your breasts for lumps if you are a woman and checking your testicles for lumps if you are a man.
What Should You Do If You Recognise Any Signs or Symptoms?
If you have any symptoms that are ongoing, unexplained or unusual for you it’s important to speak your GP. There are certain symptoms you should always have checked. Don’t be scared about getting symptoms checked by your GP. The earlier cancer is found, the more likely it is to be cured.
Make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible if you have any concerns in relation to the previously highlighted signs or symptoms. Remember, the sooner you get checked out the better things will be, either in terms of putting your mind at rest or getting the right treatment.
If you’ve already been to your GP with symptoms but they haven’t gone away, it is important to see them again. If they have any concerns that your symptoms might be caused by cancer, they will advise on the next steps in terms of tests, diagnosis and treatment.
During 2021 (COVID-19 permitting), Cancer Research UK will be hosting free drop-in information surgeries at Cornerstone House Centre’s Community Space in Antonine Shopping Centre, Cumbernauld. These provide opportunities to seek advice and speak confidentially with an expert cancer nurse. Dates and times will be published in due course.