Magazine article The Nation's Health

Who's New Guidelines Promote Early Global Cancer Diagnoses

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Who's New Guidelines Promote Early Global Cancer Diagnoses

Article excerpt

EACH YEAR, 8.8 million people worldwide die from cancer, with about 70 percent of deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries, according to figures released by the World Health Organization on Feb. 3, the day before World Cancer Day. WHO issued new guidance that promotes early cancer diagnosis, which can improve outcomes for people with cancer and cut treatment costs.

Early diagnosis is especially challenging in low- and middle-income countries, where resources to effectively diagnose and treat cancer are scarce. In 2015, just 35 percent of low-income countries reported having public pathology services and less than 30 percent reported having treatment services. But early diagnosis can mean a difference in survival.

"Diagnosing cancer in late stages, and the inability to provide treatment, condemns many people to unnecessary suffering and early death," Etienne Krug, MPH, MD, WHO's director for the management of non-communicable diseases, disability, violence and injury prevention, said in the news release.

In its guidance, WHO outlined three steps to early diagnosis. The first step is boosting public awareness of cancer symptoms and encouraging people with symptoms to seek care. Patients must understand their symptoms and what they entail so they know to seek health care. But barriers to awareness and accessing care persist, including poor health literacy, cancer stigma and limited access to primary care services. Community engagement is key to improving cancer awareness, according to WHO. …

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