October is officially commemorated as Breast Cancer Month here and elsewhere around the globe. It's been going on for 25 years. Recently published data indicated that 15 million years of healthy life were lost in 2008, as women around the world suffered from breast cancer illness and associated mortality.
Disturbingly, the data produced by researchers in Sweden also point to a surge of breast cancer in the developing world mainly because of late detection and limited access to treatment where many people exist without any kind of health insurance.
And even where there is supposed to be free health care, it is a fact that persons of the lower socio-economic bracket find it difficult to access specialist services, so many of them do not get the requisite treatment and will be detected when it is all too late.
The economic burden of breast and other cancers on the society has not been lost on well-thinking individuals. This may explain why year after year, several local organisations have put their considerable time, money and other resources to help boost the campaign to increase awareness about this dreadful disease. The scientists have said repeatedly that awareness is part of the cure.
Breast Cancer Month activities also include a fundraising component, and it is hoped that most of this money is used to assist in research to find a drug which will arrest tumour growth.
Although some cynical whispers have been heard questioning whether the companies that support the cause earn more on their merchandising activities than they donate to research efforts, the fact is that recent advances in treatment have led to a higher survival rate.
During this month, this newspaper has reported on individuals of courage who have been diagnosed with cancer but who continue to fight for their lives with grace and determination.
And there is further good news from the scientific community. Scientists have reportedly completed mapping the genetic mutations in breast cancer so that they are able to create more effective, individual treatment plans. This will, no doubt, contribute to the growing survival rate of victims.
And while the emphasis this month is on breast cancer, we should not forget that there are many other cancers, including gynaecological, colon, skin, prostate and lung cancers.
It is important for persons to recognise the signs and symptoms of cancer, and that will only come about through a massive education programme aimed at raising awareness.
As they contemplate the debilitating effects of this disease, the question on many people's minds is this: What can I do to reduce my risk of getting cancer? The experts say while cancer is sometimes genetic, there are certain triggers in one's lifestyle and environment which can put them at greater risk. The World Health Organization recommends a healthy lifestyle, an exercise regimen, and abstinence from smoking.
Cancer has brought utter misery and suffering to many families and communities. And as so many brave men and women continue to battle this disease, this newspaper reminds you that you do not stand alone. We honour you and look forward to a cure.
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