top of page

Introduction To Cancer

How does cancer impact our society? 

 

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, accounting for nearly 10 million death in 2020. Approximately, one of the six deaths is due to cancer. As one of the leading causes of death, malignant tumors are the most difficult type to be cured since they spread to distant sites via the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. According to Globocan 2020, an estimated 19.3 million new cancer cases and 10 million cancer deaths occurred worldwide. Breast cancer(11.7% of total cases and 6.9% of total deaths) and lung cancer(11.4% of total cases and 18% of total deaths) were the leading causes of cancer incidence and death, respectively. This number has decreased compared to the proportion in 2018. The most commonly diagnosed cancers in Chinese males, in 2018, were dominated by lung (21.9% of total cases), stomach (13.5%), colorectum (12.8%), liver (12.4%), and esophageal (9.0%) cancer. For Chinese females, they were breast (19.2% of total cases), lung (13.3%), colorectum(11.3%), thyroid (7.7%), and stomach (7.1%) cancer.

Many cancers can be cured if detected early and treated effectively. Early detection in breast and prostate cancers has approximately 98% and 100% chance that patients can survive at least five years and this rate remained high at 10 years as well. Moreover, the financial cost of cancer treatment can be a huge burden to people diagnosed with cancer, their families, and society. A study has shown that the estimated total national medical cost of treating lung cancer patients in China was 64.21 billion RMB (US$ 10.31 billion), about 2% of total medical costs in 2015. Total lung cancer costs in 2015 were 488.53 billion RMB (US$ 78.42 billion).In addition to saving lives, prevention and early detection have the potential to reduce that financial burden through the reduction of treatment costs. Therefore, it is important to have an annual physical examination to detect abnormalities early; there is no need to be afraid if people are diagnosed. What we can do is positively and optimistically follow the treatment. Before we jump into treatment, let’s first discuss How are cancers developed and what’s the reason behind them.

How are cancers developed and what’s the reason behind them?

First, we need to understand a few keywords. Tumors are the abnormal growth of body tissue due to the irregular division of body cells that can develop at any part of the body. When the tumor develops to become malignant, this is called cancer. Since the cancerous cells replicate at an astonishing speed, the requirement for cancer therapy to succeed is also high. For traditional chemotherapy (treating with chemicals) and radiotherapy (with radiation), one course of treatment needs to kill over 99.9% of the cancer cells to be deemed successful.

Since cancer can occur in various body parts, they are often named after the body parts at which it is situated. Often, we can hear about cancer that occurs in the lungs, colons, brains, breasts, livers, and stomachs, yet hardly can we hear about cancer in the heart or appendix—in fact, they are not on the American National Cancer Institute’s list of cancer types. Hence, it seems that some body organs are more vulnerable to cancer than others. The statistics mentioned above also show this. The reason behind it is that, since cancer itself is caused by the abnormal pattern of a normal body process (cell division), the body will not have a response against it, and hence at organs where cell division activities are most intense(livers, lungs, etc, since they need a rapid replacement of cells to maintain normal function efficiency), the chance of division to go wrong is greater, and hence are more vulnerable to cancer. This rationale has long been discovered by scientists. The reason is that cancer‘s influence on society has been so great throughout history that people cannot ignore its existence.

What is the history of cancer in China?

In China, cancer has consistently been one of the most prominent public health problems and many are concerned about its prevention and cure. To begin with, cancer is the leading cause of death in urban china and the second in rural china. Cancer mortality has been steadily increasing over the years from 74.2/100 000 in the 1970s to 108.3/100 000 in the 1990s and to 135.9/100 000 in 2004–05s. This increasing trend could be accredited to the aging population, pollution in the environment, and the increase in western lifestyle. Furthermore, there is a correspondence between how China became an aging society around the 2000s and the increasing cancer trend around the same time.

 

Lung cancer is the most prominent cancer in China. The lung cancer mortality rate has increased by 465% over the past thirty years. This could be due to China being the world’s largest tobacco and consumption country in the world, with 350 million current smokers and 500 million people exposed to passive smoking every day. 

In 1986, China issued the first National Cancer Control Plan. The main goal of this plan is to reduce the incidence and mortality rate of cancer while improving the survival and quality of life of cancer patients. The China Ministry of Health developed the second National Cancer Control Plan in 2004 along with the Hepatitis B Prevention and Control Plan. These two plans were used to accelerate cancer prevention and control efforts in China. 

China also issued an anti-smoking campaign to prevent lung cancer. In 2005 and 2006, the Chinese government funded 10 million RMB to build a national tobacco control network, creating smoke-free spaces, establishing surveillance systems on smoking among high-risk populations, and services that help people quit smoking. In April 2007, the program “Towards a Smoke-free China” was established with the aid of the Bloomberg School of Public Health of John Hopkins University. Its effects were shown as China became the first to host a completely smoke-free green Olympics.

 

Lastly, the Cancer Foundation of China (CFC) and the China Anti-cancer Association (CACA) are two independent NGOs in China that work towards cancer prevention and control in China. They organize scientific cooperation and conferences, promote international exchanges, and conduct various training and seminars while fostering scientific approaches in oncology. They also compile academic periodicals and mobilize social forces to popularize and spread knowledge of cancer. The effects of their efforts are evident in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and digestive tract cancers throughout China.

bottom of page