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World Cancer Day: Together We Are Stronger

February 4, 2020

Cancer claims 9.6 million lives each year worldwide, more than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. By 2030, experts predict that deaths from cancer across the globe will rise to 13 million a year. But only if we do not act now.

Each year on February 4, the world unites to raise awareness about cancer prevalence and prevention under a global initiative spearheaded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). World Cancer Day originated in 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris, France. Its charter charges the organization to promote research, enact cancer prevention measures, improve patient services, raise awareness, and mobilize the global community to make progress toward the eradication of cancer.

On the 20th anniversary of the founding of World Cancer Day, patients, activists, and oncology stakeholders from around the world are coming together to promote dialogue about how to enhance cancer detection and treatment. The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) joins with other cancer organizations in support of UICC’s global fight against cancer.

This year’s campaign theme, “I Am and I Will,” is an empowering call for the personal commitment and action that individuals can take now to reduce the prevalence of cancer worldwide. The power of individual agency should not be dismissed. According to the World Health Organization, at least one-third of common cancers are preventable by having a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active. In fact, up to 3.7 million lives could be saved each year by implementing resource-appropriate strategies for prevention, early detection, and treatment.

One notable success story of the power of human agency to decrease the prevalence of cancer is the fight against tobacco use in the U.S. After the U.S. cancer death rate peaked in 1991 at 215 per 100,000 people, it declined quickly and dramatically to 159 per 100,000 people by 2015, a 26 percent drop. Experts attribute this mostly to a sharp reduction in the smoking rate due to increased awareness about the link between smoking and cancer.

ACCC works to empower members of the multidisciplinary cancer care team by educating them about the latest advances in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of lung cancer and about practical approaches for integrating these advances into practice. One ongoing ACCC education program aims to help cancer programs identify barriers to care and areas for process improvement in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. An essential element of this is offering on-demand tobacco cessation services, as tobacco use continues to be the single biggest risk factor for acquiring cancer.

World Cancer Day is powerful reminder, however, that the burden of cancer is global and complex, and efforts toward its eradication should be adapted to the needs of different countries. The message of World Cancer Day is not only about what each of us can do individually, but also about what we can achieve when we work together across borders and learn from one another’s successes. Below are some action steps adapted from World Cancer Day’s call to action. ACCC has embraced them as opportunities for change:

  • Confront the mental and emotional impact of cancer care on caregivers as well as patients: Thomas A. Gallo, MS, MDA, ACCC President 2018-2019, chose as his president’s theme to focus on building a resilient cancer care team: “Unfortunately, burnout is a top-of-mind issue for many of us,” says Gallo, “as oncology has become more complex with new and evolving treatment options, growing financial toxicity, and an increasingly burdensome healthcare system, just to name a few of the stressors.” Through articles, media, and surveys, ACCC has spread awareness about the deleterious effect of burnout on all cancer caregivers and promoted strategies to support resilience and wellness among care team members.


  • Champion policy to educate stakeholders and mobilize policymakers to convert political will into action and deliver comprehensive solutions: ACCC works with other cancer advocacy organizations to help cancer programs and practices understand and respond to the proposed policies that affect them and the patients for whom they care.


  • Educate organizational leadership about the essential work of supportive care providers and their role in enhancing survivorship and quality of life: ACCC has long recognized the benefits of the team-based care that takes into account patients’ physical, psychosocial, spiritual, and financial needs. We help our member organizations provide whole-patient services—such as nutrition counseling, therapy, social work, and financial advocacy—by helping them demonstrate the value of those services. This year, ACCC conducted a Comprehensive Cancer Care Survey, collecting information from cancer programs and practices nationwide to identify and highlight the factors that impede access to supportive care. Our podcast, CANCER BUZZ, recently highlighted the importance of comprehensive cancer care and the need to reimburse that care so all patients can benefit from it.


  • Promote equal access to healthcare services by ensuring all patients can afford their prescribed treatments: ACCC’s Financial Advocacy Network’s tools and resources—including an online course for financial navigators and the Patient Assistance and Reimbursement Guide— help build the confidence of financial advocates by helping them connect patients with the resources they need to afford and manage their care.

Cancer knows no borders. In 2018, one out of six people worldwide died from cancer. It is the second-leading cause of death and represents a global annual economic impact of $1.16 trillion. Events like World Cancer Day remind us of how we each can work to achieve a world in which cancer is far less prevalent and its treatment is obtainable for everyone.

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