Q: World Cancer Day has come and gone, but there is still a need to create awareness. What effect are campaigns such as World Cancer Day having, is there enough of a sense of urgency on this sense of awareness that we can make a real difference?
A: To answer this there are two key criteria that we need to acknowledge. Firstly, is the abundance of people who are not aware or understand the risks or implications that being diagnosed with cancer can have on their lives. If we consider that according to the World Health organisation, cancer takes the lives of some 7, 2 million people each year worldwide and of these 4 million die prematurely (aged 30-69), we recognise that we are faced with a global epidemic.
Second, campaigns like that of the World Cancer Day Organisation are imperative to continue creating awareness and educate citizens of the risks, facts and treatment realities, to raise awareness and dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer. That being said, however, these campaigns cannot operate in silos once a year and this is where governments and healthcare practices also should be getting involved; to pick up on these campaigns and use platforms available to them to continue the drive for awareness.
[A possible example of this would be to provide appropriate educational material to all public hospitals, community and primary care clinics that the people who live in these communities – and may not have access to the Internet, for instance – can still have access to the right information.]
Q: This year the Union for International cancer Control (UICC) shifted their focus to educating and dispelling some of the most common myths about cancer, what are some of these myths and realities that people should know?
A: There is a direct correlation with economic circumstance and a lack of education or general understanding on the risks of cancer and these commonly found myths, which include;
Myth 1: Cancer is merely a health issue when in actual fact; cancer has wide-reaching social, economic, development and human rights implications.
Generally people who have not had to face a dread disease or had someone close to them be diagnosed with one – don’t realise that serious illnesses like cancer impacts everything around you and can dramatically change your life.
Not only is your health and general state of well-being affected, but in many cases so is your family life, your ability to work and your financial stability. Cancer is both a cause and outcome in impacting people financially – cancer negatively impacts a family’s ability to earn an income and high treatment costs push them further into financial difficulty. At the same time lower financial resources, lack of access to education and healthcare increases a person’s risk of not surving the disease.
A cancer diagnosis is something that no one wants to plan for, but sustaining your family’s quality of life is worth planning for. Having the right dread disease insurance cover in place will give you peace of mind, knowing that you are covered should the worst happen.
Myth 2: Cancer only affects the wealthy, elderly and developed countries.
Cancer is indiscriminate; it cuts across race, gender and socio economic class. Sadly, the truth is cancer affects the most vulnerable of people and is a major burden for the world’s poor where over 55% of all global cancer deaths occur.
People think that malaria kills [and] other diseases are killing people in Africa. But cancer is the same – it impacts South African’s just like any other person elsewhere in the world”. As a country we are facing a double burden of infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases like cancer.
In knowing that anyone may be diagnosed with some form of cancer at any time, it becomes important to understand the risks of the disease and to be financially covered against it. Many long-term insurers have acknowledged the societal risks that cancer and other serious dread diseases (like cancer) pose and now make dread disease cover available as a stand-alone product that is accessible and cost effective.
Myth 3: Cancer is a death sentence.
Early detection and undergoing the right treatment for cancer – in many cases - can improve your chances of survival.
The majority of people who survive a dread disease live for at least another 10 years, having the right dread disease insurance cover can therefore be life changing, as this kind of cover is designed to help with potential medical and/or lifestyle costs related to undergoing cancer treatment.
Myth 4: Cancer is my fate.
Prevention is the most cost-effective and sustainable way of reducing the cancer burden in the long-term and by incorporating good and healthy habits as part of your lifestyle, a third of the most common cancers can be prevented.
Q: How can people live a healthy lifestyle to prevent cancer?
A: Live a healthy lifestyle. Living a healthy lifestyle aids in preventing the probability of getting cancer
- The number 1 cause of all cancer deaths (22%) and 71% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking;
- managing your weight is important - as 15% of cancer is linked to obesity;
- drinking moderately and not binge drinking reduces your chances of a liver cancer diagnosis;
- protecting yourself against the sun irrespective of your skin type reduces your chances of being diagnosed with 5% of these cancer types;
- exposure to man-made chemicals like BPA (Biphenyl A) in certain plastics are responsible causes for 15% of cancer cases;
- ensuring access to good water (not exposed to radioactive elements like uranium);
- vaccinating yourself against certain types of viruses like hepatitis B can aid in mitigating the risk of liver cancer;
By changing your lifestyle - Not only can you reduce your risk of developing a third of the most commonly found cancers, but you can also reduce your risk of contracting other illness and improve your general well-being and quality of life. Also, when you live a healthy lifestyle you have the opportunity of getting better rates from insurers when taking up dread disease cover.
Q: What guidance are you able to give our listeners on the importance of going for regular check-ups?
A: People should not underestimate the importance of regular check-ups. With dread diseases like cancers, early detection could have a life changing effect on the diagnosis, your response to treatment and your chances of recovery.
- For women 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime so regular check-ups with their gynae for mammograms and pap smears is important.
- For men – 1 in 6 men over the age of 65 will be face a prostate cancer diagnosis, so regular prostate screening is important.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Your life is your most valuable asset and it needs protecting. While being diagnosed with a dread disease is something that no one wants to plan for, sustaining your family’s quality of life is worth planning for. Having the right dread disease cover in place will give you peace of mind, knowing that you are covered should the worst happen.