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World Cancer Day: A global health challenge to the fore

KARACHI: World Cancer Day, a day with renewed pledges and reiterations sans ‘pragmatic solution’, with special reference to Pakistan, is being marked today (Tuesday), February 4.

The day is dedicated to increasing public awareness of cancer and dispelling misconceptions about the illness. In Pakistan, alike other countries, several symposiums, rallies and public awareness campaigns are held to promote ways to ease the burden of disease and raising quality of life for cancer patients.

More to a concern, global health authorities say it is expected that annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 within the next two decades.

In Pakistan, almost 90,000 cases of breast cancer result in almost 40,000 deaths per year. Besides Pakistan is on the seventh position in incidence of Leukemia and Lymphoma (blood cancer) with an estimated number of 15,000 new cases registered annually in the country.

According to World Health Organisation, Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect any part of the body. Other terms used are malignant tumours and neoplasms.


The story of World Cancer Day started on February 4 intending to increase global awareness of cancer. World Cancer Day originated in 2000 at the first World Summit against Cancer, which was held in Paris. At the meeting, leaders of government agencies and cancer organizations from around the world signed the Charter of Paris against Cancer, a document containing 10 articles that outlined a cooperative global commitment to improving the quality of life of cancer patients and advancement of cancer research, prevention, and treatment.

Risk factors:

The WHO identifies tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity among the main cancer risk factors worldwide. Chronic infections from hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are leading risk factors for cancer in low- and middle-income countries. Cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV, is a leading cause of cancer death among women in low-income countries.

Lung, liver, stomach, colorectal and breast cancers cause the most cancer deaths each year. The WHO states that more than 60% of world’s total new annual cases occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. These regions account for 70% of the world’s cancer deaths. According to recent figures, lung cancer accounts to 1.59 million deaths worldwide, followed by liver (745,000 deaths), stomach (723,000 deaths), colorectal (694,000 deaths), breast (521,000 deaths) and oesophageal cancer (400,000 deaths)


The world health body says cancer treatment requires a careful selection of one or more intervention, such as surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. The goal is to cure the disease or considerably prolong life while improving the patient's quality of life. Cancer diagnosis and treatment is complemented by psychological support.

According to Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), nearly 8 million people will die of cancer this year, and if left unchecked, the number of deaths will increase to 13.2 million per year by 2030.

Imran Khan’s initiative:

The idea for establishing a Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC) began to materialize in the late 1980s when famed cricketer of his time, Imran Khan, made a nation-wide appeal for the collection of funds from a match between Pakistan and India on November 10, 1989 at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore which raised Rs 20.9 million, intending to build a cancer hospital. The sanatorium was formally inaugurated on December 29, 1994, and widely acclaimed by people from all walks of life.



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