World Cancer Day: China works to improve prevention, cure rate of common cancers

February 4 every year marks World Cancer Day, initiated by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to rally the international community to address some key problems related to cancer.

This year, as part of a three-year campaign from 2022 to 2024, the theme is "Closing the care gap: Everyone deserves access to cancer care."

The UICC said around 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur in the least developed parts of the world. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast and lung cancers have become the most common forms of cancer.

In 2020, 2.26 million cases of breast cancer were reported worldwide, making it the most prevalent cancer, followed by lung cancer with 2.2 million cases reported. The latter was the most lethal, causing 1.8 million deaths, the WHO said. 

Do breast nodules mean cancer?

In China, the largest developing country with 1.4 billion people, there are about 420,000 cases of breast cancer each year. Patients' age of onset is earlier than it is in developed countries, with the peak incidence at between 45 to 55 years old. 

With the popularization of physical examinations in China, many women undergo breast color ultrasound examinations on a regular basis. Some find out they have breast nodules and worry that they will develop into cancer. 

In fact, nodules that have been identified as benign will not become cancerous. If the examination result indicates that the breast nodule is at risk of malignancy, it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible, according to medical experts. 

Patients don't need to be nervous if nodules are found, said Dr Lin Hua from Fuxing Hospital, which is affiliated with the Capital Medical University. 

"If the nodules are combined with pain, most of them are benign, we also call them hyperplastic nodules; if the nodules are found to be painless and constantly increasing, we must strictly pay attention to them," Lin told China Media Group (CMG).

Lin advocated that women over 40 years old conduct color ultrasound examinations every six months or a mammography once a year. 

"If there is a genetic history in the family, that is, if the mother has breast cancer, the offspring may develop the disease 10 years earlier than her, so we need to check, find and treat early," he added. 

Improve cure rate of lung cancer

In China, the incidence of and deaths from lung cancer have been on the rise in the past 20 years.

Medical experts have advised high-risk groups, such as those with family history, smoking history or occupational exposure, to conduct low-dose spiral CT screening regularly.

"How to detect lung cancer at an early stage is very, very important," said Cheng Ying, vice chairman of the Lung Cancer Special Committee of the Oncology Society of the Chinese Medical Association.

There are no symptoms in the early stage of lung cancer. Once symptoms, such as cough, sputum, bloody sputum, chest tightness, shortness of breath, fatigue and hoarseness, appear, it normally means that the patient's condition is at a later stage, she explained to CMG. 

Speaking about lung cancer treatment, Cheng said that it is vital to adopt precise medical treatment. With the use of drugs that precisely identify and attack certain types of cancer cells, the results of treatment would be better, she added. 

Multidisciplinary collaboration is also essential, Cheng said. "We have new drugs now that enable inoperable patients or locally advanced patients to become operable after drug treatment, so at this time, we can also improve the patient's overall cure rate through simultaneous radiotherapy and chemotherapy," she explained. 

(Cover via CFP)

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