In a sarcastic way, one of my patients greeted me on February 4 last year by saying, “Happy World Cancer Day, Doctor!” Her words still ring in my ears. No matter what we think as doctors, nurses, health care professionals, and authorities, we cannot justify World Cancer Day celebrations and joyful events in front of our patients with cancer.
World Cancer Day was started in 2000 by our French colleague Dr. David Khayat, who created the World Cancer Charter with the late French President Jacques Chirac, is observed every year on February 4 by the Union for International Cancer Control (@UICC; formerly the Union International Contre le Cancer). Every year, or lately every few years, UICC issues a theme for World Cancer Day. Themes are usually a response to global cancer prevention, patient treatment, and support. UICC aims at raising worldwide cancer awareness, improving health knowledge and education of people of different geographic, economic, and cultural backgrounds, and encouraging every person to take initiatives to take care of themselves and their community. World Cancer Day also aims at promoting global cancer prevention, early detection, and lobbying for equal access to health care.
For 2020, the #WorldCancerDay theme is "I Am and I Will” (#IAmAndIWill). This theme is carried over from 2019, when it was very popular, and UICC noted that hundreds of activities and events were held all over the world. It is about every one of us, and about asking for our commitment to do something to prevent cancer and support people and communities deal with cancer.
I am... a student, a teacher, a family physician, an oncologist, a nurse, an engineer, a farmer, a banker, an organization, a government official, etc. I will... spread the word about the dangers of smoking, ask my friends to stop smoking, advise women to follow guidelines for breast cancer self-examination and mammography, tell my patients and relatives to have a colonoscopy once they reach age 50, ask health care authorities to vaccinate girls and boys at affordable costs to prevent HPV infection and cancer of the cervix, hold conferences and community lectures, make flyers, brochures, or booklets about cancer awareness and distribute them, post social media messages, lobby for making diagnostic tests, proper surgery, and necessary chemotherapy available for all patients at lower and affordable costs, perform cancer research, support cancer research, donate money for cancer research, raise funds, lobby my government to allocate budget to support academic cancer research, support organizations that volunteer to improve care of cancer patients worldwide, etc.
To avoid resentment by our patients and people affected by cancer, and to promote more effective activities, we might consider changing the name of World Cancer Day to World Cancer Prevention and Patient Support Day, similarly to what we did with Pink October Awareness Month, changing it to Pink October Action Month.
This year, let us all hold World Cancer Day activities and events to raise health care awareness, improve education, and encourage people and friends to prevent cancer and improve care of patients with cancer.