Collaboration, New Thinking Needed for Cancer Crisis
IAEA Marks World Cancer Day 2009 with Special Event and Call for Action
The IAEA is hosting a special World Cancer Day event at the Vienna International Centre (VIC), Vienna, Austria, 4 February 2009. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)
- Story Resources
- IAEA Talk: IAEA and Cancer Control, Interview with Werner Burkart, IAEA Deputy Director General, Nuclear Sciences and Applications, Podcast [.mp3]
- PACT Website
- IAEA Deaprtment of Nuclear Sciences and Applications
- IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation
- Division of Human Health
- International Union Against Cancer
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
- World Health Organization
World Cancer Day, marked each year on 4 February, aims to raise awareness of the global cancer burden and inspire greater effort to fight the disease. This year, that aim takes on particular significance: latest figures from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) show that by 2010 cancer will have overtaken cardiovascular disease to become the world´s number one killer.
According to IARC´s World Cancer Report for 2008, there were more than 12 million new cancer cases worldwide last year alone. Incidence is rising so rapidly that by 2030 there could be as many as 27 million people with cancer and 17 million cancer deaths annually, more than 70% of them in the developing world.
Adding its voice to the World Cancer Day campaign, the IAEA is urging a vigorous, collaborative approach towards fighting the disease in poorer countries that are least able to cope with the worsening cancer crisis.
"On this World Cancer Day it is very difficult to accept that some people are doomed to die either because screening is lacking and so their cancer is detected only at a very late stage, or because no cancer therapy is available," says Werner Burkart, IAEA Deputy Director General, Nuclear Sciences and Applications. "The IAEA is standing together with the international community in the hope that through collective action we can improve care and survival for the many people confronting cancer in the developing world."
Because people in developing countries are now living longer and adopting western lifestyles, including more tobacco use and high-fat diets, cancer numbers are increasing dramatically. Yet limited resources and health systems often over-burdened by communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS mean that many cancer patients have little or no access to proper diagnosis and treatment.
Spearheaded by its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), the IAEA draws on its expertise in radiation medicine to help low-income countries introduce or expand radiotherapy capacity within the context of national cancer control programmes. And it works in partnership with leading international cancer organizations and Member States to develop and implement the strategies a country needs to combat its cancer burden: prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and, in incurable cases, palliation to ease end-of-life suffering.
Placing Cancer on the Global Health Agenda
But according to PACT much more remains to be done and only a fundamental change in the way the cancer crisis is approached can help those countries which currently are unable to help themselves. This must start from the top. Right now, cancer is not specifically mentioned in the United Nations´ own Millennium Development Goals, falling instead under "other diseases" referred to in MDG 6. PACT is urging that cancer be made a priority, with resources earmarked and directed to help meet the need in low and middle-income countries.
"PACT is calling on the donor community and bilateral development agencies to make cancer in developing countries a priority on the global health agenda. Without a radical change in thinking, low-income countries will see more and more people dying prematurely and needlessly from cancer, with devastating social and economic consequences," says Massoud Samiei, Head, PACT Programme Office.
Think Global, Act Local
Thanks to more screening availability, early detection and better treatment, cancer cure rates are improving in a number of industrialized countries. To drive home the need for increased awareness and vigilance among staff members and visitors to the Vienna International Centre (VIC), headquarters of the IAEA, PACT is hosting a special World Cancer Day event in the building´s Rotunda, with audio-visual presentations about its work.
Both the VIC Medical Services and the Vienna Cancer League are participating in the activities and will offer information on cancer prevention and early detection, as well as advice on quitting smoking.
See Story Resources for more information.