Clinical opinions / 28 Jan, 2021

Why reducing the global cancer burden is so important

Dr Ian Irving

Icon Medical Director Dr Ian Irving shares his thoughts this World Cancer Day

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for an estimated 9.65 million deaths in 20181. Globally, about 1 in 6 deaths are due to cancer.

Today, we know more about cancer than ever before. Through cancer research and clinical trials, we have seen significant progress in the development of cancer treatment breakthroughs.

In Australia, statistical data collected by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) tells us that the incidence of cancer has been steadily dropping since 2008, and that cancer survival rates have improved overall.

Around 30 years ago, about 5 in 10 people survived for at least 5 years after their cancer diagnosis; more recent figures are closer to 7 in 10 people surviving at least 5 years2.  Many cancers have a high chance of cure when diagnosed early, and one of the reasons that we have seen improvements in survival rates has been an improvement in the early detection of cancers, with more cancers than ever being diagnosed at an earlier stage. However, more progress is still needed, with an estimated 396 new cases of cancer in Australia each day and almost 50,000 cancer deaths annually3.

World Cancer Day is recognised every year on February 4 uniting people across the world in the fight against cancer.  While it is estimated that more than one third of cancer cases can be prevented and another third can by cured if detected early and treated properly, World Cancer Day aims to connect people globally to raise awareness about cancer.

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) are the organisers of World Cancer Day and is the largest international cancer membership organisation in the world. Icon is proud to be a Vanguard partner of UICC and a Champion Partner of World Cancer Day 2021, to help make a lasting difference to cancer patients around the world.

Approximately 70% of cancer deaths occur in low to middle income countries1. Being diagnosed with cancer at a more advanced stage, combined with a lack of access to treatment is unfortunately a common scenario for many people in these countries. By participating in the World Cancer Day campaign alongside the UICC and many other organisations around the world, our goal is to raise awareness about cancer on a global scale.

This year’s World Cancer Day theme is ‘I AM and I WILL”, a campaign about raising cancer awareness through conversation.

I AM and I Will recognises that if we all pledge to make a positive step – big or small – in our own lives or in our own communities we can help create change towards better health and a world less burdened by cancer.

Through raising awareness around cancer, we can help to increase understanding of the signs and symptoms of cancer and of the importance of cancer screening and early detection. By speaking out about our own personal experience with cancer, we can help to reduce fears and misconception about cancer and cancer treatment and help to change behaviours and attitudes.

As we continue to live in COVID-19, Icon has created a Wall of Hearts online message board and we are encouraging patients, loved ones, and our teams and partners to submit virtual heartfelt pledges to symbolise our commitment to easing the cancer burden, and to provide messages of hope for those that need it most.

At Icon, our mission is to deliver the best care possible, to as many people as possible, as close to home as possible. As Icon’s Medical Director, my own pledge is to ensure that Icon provides the best possible cancer care across our global network.

Everyone has been touched by cancer, so World Cancer Day is a chance to make your voice heard. I encourage you to share your message for inclusion on Icon’s Wall of Hearts by submitting your own pledge.

Click here to make your I AM and I WILL pledge.


For a full list of references, click here.
  1.  World Health Organisation Fact Sheet 2018 – Cancer
  2. Cancer in Australia 2019, AIHW
  3. World Health Organisation Cancer Country Profile 2020 – Australia

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