Tomorrow is World Cancer Day. It is a day when millions of people across the globe unite in the fight to combat the disease and raise vital funds for life-saving research. It is also a time when many people - like me - will reflect on the loss of a loved one to this disease.
According to the World Health Organisation, cancer is the leading cause of death around the world. In fact, statistics show that ONE in every TWO people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.
Here in Northern Ireland nearly 18,000 people of working age in 2014 were living with the disease.
That means most people have had some contact with the disease – whether it is losing a loved one or work colleague, knowing someone who is undergoing treatment or have themselves been diagnosed with some form of cancer.
Cancer does not discriminate. It affects young and old, the frail and the healthy. And, while there are steps we can take to protect ourselves – such as quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, covering our skin against harmful ultraviolet sunlight or avoiding sunbeds – even those, like my mum, who do not smoke or drink, take regular exercise and eat healthy diets can fall victim too.
Thanks to research, new breakthroughs are being made all the time. Only recently, British surgeons were the first in the world to carry out a 30-minute procedure under local anaesthetic to vacuum out a breast cancer tumour.
There is now also a simple breath test that British researchers say is 85% accurate at identifying stomach and esophageal cancers which, it is hoped, will lead to earlier detection and, ultimately, save lives. As a result of all these new treatments, cancer survival rates have doubled over the past 40 years.
But it comes at a huge cost – not only to our own healthcare services, but those around the world – coupled with the huge rise in the cost of generic cancer drugs in the UK alone in the past five years.
We as a society are very thankful to the many charitable organisations that help to fund research and increasingly rely on donations from the public.
If you’ve received support from one of our local cancer charities, we’d be interested to hear about your experience.
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