February 4th, 2021 is recognized as World Cancer Day. A cancer diagnosis is life-altering for individuals, caregivers, and families. World Cancer Day presents an opportunity for advocacy and awareness campaigns, acknowledging the global impact of cancer. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide (1). Cancer is a disease, which occurs when normal cells within the body lead to uncontrolled abnormal growth forming a lump, mass, or tumor. However, this does not apply to blood related cancers. When left untreated, cancer can metastasize, which is the spread of a cancer to other sites in the body. Cancer detection with an early diagnosis is important for a more favorable prognosis. Prognosis is the predicted forecast for the course of the disease and future treatment.
Cancer awareness campaigns play a vital role in educating the public on cancer prevalence, as well as signs, and symptoms of cancers. Cancer campaigns are also widely acknowledged for their efforts in raising funds to support continued cancer research. Canadian Cancer Society is an excellent resource and community support providing information on more than 100 types of cancer, advocating on cancer related issues, educating and empowering people to make healthy choices (2). Awareness and education are a critical part of prevention and early intervention. The more individuals, families, and the public are informed on cancer signs and symptoms, the more likely they will be to pay attention to changes in their health. It is important for everyone to continue to attend regular annual doctor checkups and preventative cancer screenings.
Impact of Cancer & Support Across the Cancer Continuum
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is stress provoking, as individuals, caregivers, and families navigate the medical system and course of treatments. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can often instigate fear, which can be harmful to one’s mental and emotional well-being (3). Adjusting to life with a cancer diagnosis can present many new challenges for individuals and families. Decision making around course of treatment, leave of absence from work or school, and financial constraints can elevate patient and caregiver stress and anxiety. Caregiver stress is very common, as caregivers carry an additional load when supporting a loved one with cancer.
It is important for both individuals undergoing cancer treatment and their caregivers to find
support throughout the cancer journey. Learning ways to cope with the mental and emotional stress that comes with navigating a cancer diagnosis, can dramatically alter one’s quality of life throughout treatment. Support services outside of a patient’s medical team can enhance an individual’s well-being throughout diagnosis, treatment, and into survivorship.
Wellspring, is a Canada-Wide network of community-based centres offering wellness programming and services free of charge for anyone, with any type of cancer, at any stage of the cancer journey and their caregiver support persons (4).
To Learn More About Wellspring or to find a location near you visit:
It is reported that eight in every ten cancer patients report having physical challenges after treatment (3). Cancer treatments, including surgeries and chemotherapy medications can directly impact how individuals feel physically and emotionally (4). Side effects from treatments can also alter mood, sleep, and physical capabilities. Fatigue, muscle atrophy, and brain fog are commonly experienced following cancer treatments.
There is a growing body of evidence that indicates safe exercise and therapeutic modalities, including mindfulness-based stress reduction and meditation can be extremely beneficial throughout treatment and healing into survivorship. Exercise can be very empowering to individuals undergoing cancer treatments. Movement and low intensity activity can help individuals rebuild confidence and gain a sense of control in their body. Relaxation techniques including mindfulness and meditation can also be integrating into one’s healing journey to find more peace within the cancer experience.
World Cancer Day theme of ‘I AM and I Will’ encourages individual responsibility and action against cancer (1). Through increase awareness, advocacy efforts, and education, individuals can be empowered to take personal responsibility for their health.
Adopting healthier lifestyle choices and incorporating preventative behaviors, such as the use of early detection services, can help promote individuals health and well-being when it comes to cancer prevention and early intervention.
(3) Depression and Anxiety among people living with and beyond cancer: a growing clinical and research priority. https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12885-019-6181-4utm_source=bmc_blogs&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=null&utm_campaign=blog_2019_on-medicine