NEW YORK — Patrick Swayze received a standing ovation in September 2008 when he said, “I dream of a future with a long healthy life, a life not lived in the shadow of cancer but in the light.” His words reached over 170 countries. Although Swayze did not achieve his dream, his message proved to be tremendously lucrative, resulting in over $100 million in donated funds during the broadcast for Stand Up to Cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes. Worldwide there were about 14.1 million new cancer cases in 2012.
At first glance, the website’s map depicting frequency of cancer per world region suggests that the rates are higher in developed countries. After all, developing countries still face the problem of premature deaths on a massive scale.
However, the map assigns grades from A to G. These grades reflect reliability of data for each country. This means that the rates of cancer diagnosis and survival are less likely to be accurate for underdeveloped nations.
Therein lies two problems. If the data were accurate for all the surveyed nations, it would imply a positive correlation between economic development and cancer, throwing shade upon the first world. If the information were inaccurate, it would mean that cancer rates are possibly higher in the developing world than the governments either know or admit to.
The World Health Organization has done some calculations of its own. It projects that cancer will eventually kill more people than heart disease on a global scale. According to the WHO’s projections, approximately 50 percent of cancer patients in developing countries are younger than 65.
It also happens to be an expensive disease. When treatment costs for all of the cancers are combined, the grand total comes to about 900 billion U.S. dollars, placing the bill above that of heart disease.
The main problem with cancer in developing nations is that it is rarely diagnosed in time to begin treatment. By the time most individuals get their diagnoses, it is too late for doctors to do anything other than send the patient home.
The reasons for this are derived from a vicious cycle. The poor are less able to combat cancer for a lack of education, knowledge and evidence. Poverty alone limits access to care, prevention, early detection and prompt, adequate treatment.
Among all of these, the deadliest variable is undereducation. Without it, not enough people in developing countries can earn access to medical training, which results in lower availability of doctors and nurses to treat patients.
While the statistics may be slightly outdated, the overall trends remain the same. Now, with the outbreaks of Arab Spring, Ebola and well-funded terrorist groups such as ISIS, cancer rates in developed countries are one the last things on the collective’s mind.
Nevertheless, cancer remains a crucial health concern all over the world. To find out more and contribute to the cause, visit http://www.standup2cancer.org/give.
– Leah Zazofsky