Some 10 million people die from cancer globally every year. The disease places an enormous burden on countries and communities. Cancer control aims to lessen this burden. It includes cancer prevention, early detection and diagnosis, treatment and palliative care.
Many cancers can be prevented by reducing the risk factors, or through vaccination and screening. Others can be detected and diagnosed early in their development, treated and cured. Even with more advanced cancers, pain can be eased, the progression of the cancer slowed, and patients and their families helped to cope.
Cancer control aims to reduce the incidence, morbidity and mortality of cancer and to improve the quality of life of cancer patients in a defined population, through the systematic implementation of evidence-based interventions for prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care.
– Cancer control, Knowledge into action (WHO Guide for effective programmes) | Planning module
Cancer control programmes bring together people and organisations to coordinate actions, policies and services. They agree on the most effective solutions for the wider population, while taking into account the specific needs of subgroups that may face disproportionate rates of cancer and mortality.
A cancer control programme is successful when it ensures that everyone in the community (or country) is motivated to live a healthy lifestyle, is given the best possible chance to prevent cancer and has access to affordable and effective treatment and care.
This is not yet a reality everywhere. The number of cancer cases and deaths are increasing the fastest in low- and middle-income countries due to ageing populations, a shift to urban lifestyles and a growing exposure to risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol consumption. Health care systems are often under-resourced and governments have not been able to make cancer control a priority.
In high-income countries, there are important differences in people’s ability to access cancer services and the level of care is not the same for everyone. This leads to a higher number of cancer cases and deaths in some populations.
Effective (and adequately financed) cancer control plans are needed everywhere to stop the growing cancer burden and to help more people survive this disease regardless of race, age, gender, location, social or economic status.