Dispelling Myths & Saving Lives: What You Can Do on World Cancer Day

Dispelling Myths & Saving Lives: What You Can Do on World Cancer Day

Mildred's Story: Treating HIV and Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases.Mildred's Story: Treating HIV and Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases.

Fact or fiction?

  • About 70% of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Nearly 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented.
  • Many cancers (such as breast, cervical and colorectal cancer) can be cured, if detected early and treated adequately.
  • Cancers are killing more people in developing countries than HIV & AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

Answer? Fact. All of them are true.

Cancer is not only a disease of wealthy and elderly nations. The cancer burden on low- and middle-income countries is vast---and cancer deaths are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 13.1 million deaths in 2030. Living in poverty increases the risk of developing cancer, and dramatically reduces the odds of being treated. For example, 90% of child leukemia patients in the United States survive—but in developing countries, the opposite is true: nearly 90% die.

Addressing this chilling cancer divide is truly a global issue.

MSH and other global leaders are prioritizing chronic diseases (such as cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases) as one of the key health areas for saving lives and improving health among the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

Our approach to effectively addressing cancers and other chronic diseases is grounded in strengthening health systems and integrating services: The long-term nature of chronic diseases poses many challenges for the health system but it is crucial that the prevention, care and treatment of chronic disease be integrated in order to save more lives.

Watch Mildred's story: treating HIV & chronic diseases in Uganda:


As we move forward with a global response, MSH recommends:

  • Leveraging existing investments to expand chronic diseases coverage;
  • Strengthening human resources for health;
  • Expanding health information systems to support chronic diseases programs;
  • Saving lives through integrated service delivery;
  • Scaling-up chronic diseases services, using the HIV & AIDS groundwork;
  • Providing access to safe and affordable medicines; and
  • Working toward universal health coverage (UHC). (Watch MSH President Dr. Jonathan D. Quick in this Devex interview on fighting the chronic diseases epidemic with UHC.)

Take action

Today, as the global community commemorates World Cancer Day 2013, we invite you to sign the World Cancer Declaration, a tool provided by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to “help bring the growing cancer crisis to the attention of government leaders and health policymakers in order to significantly reduce the global cancer burden by 2020.”

Together, implementing these evidence-based and game-changing approaches, we can reduce the cancer and chronic disease burden on low- and middle-income countries.


To learn more about MSH’s work helping managers and communities fight chronic diseases, please visit our website.