February 4th is World Cancer Day and is focused on dispelling the dangerous myths & misconceptions surrounding the disease. It is a chance to raise our collective voices in the name of improving general knowledge around cancer and dismissing misconceptions about the disease. Globally, World Cancer Day is focusing on these four myths:
Let’s talk a bit about myth #3: There is nothing I can do about cancer.
An illness like cancer can make the patient and their family feel helpless. Many families take this helpless feeling and put their energies into something to help their loved one or the larger cancer community. On an individual level, we can help our loved one by providing support, meals, rides to appointments, or help with their daily responsibilities like kids or pets. Consider a clinical trial for your treatment – clinical trials are how advances in treatments for current and future patients are discovered. Pediatric oncology has made tremendous strides in cancer survival rates, largely due to clinical trials participation. Over 60% of children with cancer participate in a clinical trial for treatment – compare that with only 2-3% of adults.
On a community level, many survivors and family get involved by “giving back”. They start foundations, participate in charity walks/runs, become a support buddy through a national support organization or knit chemo caps for a cancer center. For some, the experience makes them re-evaluate their chosen career path and they explore new careers that connect them to the oncology world. Many people think you need to have or give money to give back – this could not be farther from the truth. Something seemingly simple, like picking up groceries for a neighbor too ill to get out or mowing their lawn when you do yours, gives back at a very personal level- and costs nothing.
But can any one person really do something to affect the global problem of cancer? YES! When it comes to ourselves, we can commit to living healthier by not smoking, eating better and exercising. It is estimated that over 30% of cancers are preventable through healthy living, so these changes can go a long way in decreasing cancer rates. Seeing your healthcare provider annually and participating in age-appropriate cancer screenings can detect pre-cancerous changes or early cancers for which treatment is often successful. Rates of skin cancer have been steadily rising. These are largely preventable by practicing sun safety. If everyone committed to making these lifestyle changes, we would undoubtedly see cancer rates drop.
All these little contributions chip away at the power of cancer and are a big part of the progress that has been made in recent decades. So don’t just sit there and say there is nothing I can do – DO SOMETHING!