Cancer. We all know what it is. Every year about 14 million people around the globe will learn that they have the disease. And about 8 million people will die from it.
However, it is estimated that one-third of these deaths can be prevented. World Cancer Day aims to save lives though raising awareness and educating people about the disease, and getting both individuals and governments to take action. Over the next three years – using the tagline “We Can. I Can.” – World Cancer Day will look at how everyone can do their part to fight the worldwide burden of cancer.
It is estimated that one-third of cancer deaths can be prevented.
A key part of this effort is, of course, more research. The ISRCTN registry contains over 1700 cancer trials, 1200 of which are located here in the UK. To show our support for World Cancer Day, we’re going to look at some of the key messages of the campaign and explore some of the research we have registered in each area.
The way we live today can put us at risk of cancer in a number of different ways – for example, by smoking, eating a poor diet or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Preventing cancer is all about educating people about these risks.
Smoking is the most preventable cause of cancer in the world. In the ISRCTN registry alone, there are over 700 studies to help people quit smoking or prevent them from taking up the habit. This study in France, for example, is looking at how peer influence may discourage young people from smoking tobacco.
Smoking is the most preventable cause of cancer in the world.
Being overweight or obese can also put people at an increased risk of a number of different types of cancer, including bowel, breast and womb cancer. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will decrease the risk of developing cancer and may, as this study is investigating, be particularly beneficial for people at higher risk of certain types of cancer.
Creating healthy environments
Both schools and workplaces can develop policies and programs to create a healthy environment, which in turn encourages others to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
The CHIRPY DRAGON study is a program being tested in schools in China, to prevent young children becoming overweight, encouraging them to eat a healthy diet and take lots of exercise. And some NHS staff are participating in a trial to see if using sit-stand desks makes them more physically active.
Early detection saves lives
While prevention is better than a cure, diagnosing a cancer in its early stages almost always makes it easier to treat and much more likely to cure. This can be achieved through both raising awareness of early signs and symptoms and improving the quality of cancer screening.
The University Hospital of South Manchester is currently recruiting for a study comparing an advanced type of mammogram (digital breast tomosynthesis) with a standard mammogram for screening young women at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Similarly, a research group in Taiwan are investigating a new method of diagnosing cirrhosis of the liver, a disease that is likely to progress to liver cancer.
Return to work
Even if you are diagnosed with cancer, this doesn’t mean having to give up work. Some people are undoubtedly unable to carry on working, but others do continue, albeit with some time off to recover from treatment. And some patients may want to continue working throughout their treatment, as a way of retaining some sense of normality, so that their whole life doesn’t suddenly revolve around cancer.
Being diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean having to give up work.
Research in the area includes a recent study in Denmark, which looked at whether an individually tailored return to work management program for patients undergoing cancer treatment can help more people go back to work soon after treatment. While Coventry University is recruiting for their Workplan study, which involves providing cancer patients who intend to back to work after treatment, with support though a workbook support package.
Asking for support
Throughout the patient’s journey – from diagnosis, to treatment and then returning to daily life – getting support from other people, and particularly family and friends, can help people living with cancer to adjust to how their diagnosis is affecting their lives and improve their quality of life. Joining a support group can also offer the opportunity to talk to other people living with cancer.
Breast Cancer Care UK recently tested a 5-week support program offering information, emotional support and practical help to women who have completed treatment for breast cancer in the last year. It included a peer support group, where women were able to share their experiences, practical advice to help with the after effects of treatment and access to other local support services.
But it’s not just those with cancer that need support. Having a loved one with cancer can be very distressing for their friends and family. With this in mind, some researchers in Norway are testing a study program developed to support families cope when a parent is diagnosed with cancer, with a particular emphasis on helping the children that are affected.
Having a loved one with cancer can be very distressing for their friends and family.
Taking control of the cancer journey
It’s important for patients to have some control over their treatment and care, and that their treatment is agreed upon by both themselves and the cancer specialist. This can be achieved by shared decision making (SDM) where a patient and their doctor discuss and agree to a healthcare plan together.
An SDM for women with breast cancer is currently being trialed in Germany to see whether decision aids and decision coaching will encourage women to become more involved in making decisions about their treatment.
And finally, this study provides cancer patients nearing the end of their lives the opportunity to create a legacy document, where they share, for example, cherished memories, thoughts of what they have learned in life and final wishes for their loved ones. The document is leather-bound and given to the patients loved ones as a keepsake.