On 4 February - World Cancer Day - the IAEA joined other international organizations to dispel common myths about cancer and its causes.
During the 4 February commemorative event at the IAEA Headquarters in Vienna, Austria, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano spoke about the human tragedy that is cancer and the reasons for hope. "Many cancers respond well to treatment and can even be cured. Thanks to early detection and modern treatment methods, millions of men and women now live normal lives for many decades after diagnosis. Often, they die in old age of something other than cancer."
Despite progress made fighting the disease, there is still more to be done. The IAEA is working with global partners on a number of fronts; one of which is access to radiotherapy.
"It is estimated that there is a shortage of around 5 000 radiotherapy machines in developing countries," says Amano. "That means that millions of people, in Africa and elsewhere, have no access to diagnostic services or treatment. Too many die of conditions that are actually treatable. That is an immense human tragedy. The IAEA Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) has been working hard to try to make radiotherapy services available in all countries. Through our technical cooperation programme, we are supporting over 130 projects in cancer diagnosis, management and treatment."
The IAEA has also delivered cancer-related assistance totalling over 260 million US dollars to developing countries in the past 30 years.
There are also plans to establish a Cancer Training Centre at the IAEA laboratory complex in Seibersdorf, near Vienna, within the next few years. This will provide specialist training for health professionals from Member States, using advanced teaching technologies to complement the existing training offered by the IAEA Dosimetry Laboratory.
During his speech, President-Elect of the Union of International Cancer Control (UICC), Dr. Tezer Kutluk, called cancer an urgent issue, asking for the world's continued support "to make cancer history."
Other presenters included: Ambassador of Sudan, Mahmoud Hassan El Amin; Minister from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea, Munki Lee; and Medical Director of the Vienna International Centre Medical Service, Matthias Lademann.
This year's theme for World Cancer Day - Did You Know? - provides a key opportunity to improve general knowledge about cancer and dispel misconceptions of the disease. Among the most persistent myths about cancer is that it only affects high-income, developed countries. Of the ten million lives taken by cancer each year, 70% of these deaths occur in low to middle-income countries.