The word “cancer” came from the Greek word “oncos” which was used by a Roman physician named Galen. Oncos is the Greek word for “swelling.” Today, it is one of the leading causes of death in the world, predominantly in developing countries. It affects about anyone no matter what their age, race, sex or social status is. It is an illness that impinge heavy physical, emotional, mental and financial burden on people suffering from it and on their families.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one in seven deaths worldwide is due to this disease (2012). This means that it causes more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. World Health Organization (WHO) states that approximately 70% of all deaths take place in low- and middle- income countries. This rate will continue to rise if preventive measures are not widely and appropriately applied in developing countries.
The probability of being diagnosed with the disease increases with age. Moreover, there is a higher chance of acquiring the disease with family history. However, researchers now agree that genetics alone does not increase the risk; rather it is the combination of heredity, lifestyle and environmental factors that heighten the possibility of developing the disease.
The most common type of cancer for males is that of the lungs, bronchus and trachea, while it is of the breast for females. However, these vary by geographic area, and even by individual countries. This is due to the fact that different areas have varying age structure of the population, prevalence of risk factors, availability and use of diagnostic tests and quality of treatment (ACS, 2012).
Statistics have shown that survival from this illness vary according to type and stage at diagnosis, and if treatments are available. Clearly, there are differences in the survival rate between developed and developing countries due to affordability of healthcare. It is a fact that 93% of the disease burden worldwide is concentrated in developing countries, yet only 18% of the world income and 11% of global health spending is attributed to them (Global Economic Symposium, 2008).
Most patients in low- and middle-income countries are diagnosed with advanced-stage of the disease wherein the only options left for cure are pain relief and palliative care.
With all these facts, there is an urgency of the increasing incidence of the disease; thus, calling for a collective action among global public health organizations. Several awareness programs are being held to raise consciousness about the disease, such as the observance of World Cancer Day every February 4 of each year. It is highly recommended by WHO that national strategies for controlling cancer consider a balanced approach including prevention, early detection, effective treatment and palliative care.