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Early Diagnosis, Treatment for Cancer Saves Many Lives

FILE - Chemotherapy drugs are administered to a patient at North Carolina Cancer Hospital in Chapel Hill, May 25, 2017.
FILE - Chemotherapy drugs are administered to a patient at North Carolina Cancer Hospital in Chapel Hill, May 25, 2017.

To mark World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization urges the adoption of healthy life styles as a way to lower cancer risks. WHO also emphasizes that early diagnosis and treatment for cancer can save many lives.

Much progress has been made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. But, the statistics regarding this disease remain terrible. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, killing nearly nine million people yearly, with about 14 million new cases being diagnosed.

The most common causes of cancer death include lung, liver, colorectal, stomach and breast cancers. The World Health Organization reports tobacco use is the most important risk factor, followed by alcohol use, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity.

WHO technical officer for cancer control, Andre Ilbawi says approximately 70 percent of cancer deaths are in low-and middle-income countries, while the number of cases in these countries is increasing at a fast and worrying rate.

He agrees this is a cause of concern, but tells VOA simple actions can be taken even by the poorest countries to address this issue.

"First and foremost, the greatest priority is to diagnose cancer early.This is a more significant intervention than, as you mentioned, the advanced technologies and the expensive medicines that can be prohibitive in low-income countries.Identifying cancer early is the most effective way to treat it and by offering that population basic treatment, you can, in fact, save a large percentage of cancer patients even with minimal resources," he said.

Ilbawi says important actions that developing countries can take to improve cancer outcomes include improving community awareness of the disease, early detection through better diagnosis in primary health care and accessing affordable treatment.

The World Health Organization also stresses the importance of a healthy lifestyle. It says eating more fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, no tobacco use and moderate alcohol intake can cut cancer deaths by one third.