2012 National Cancer Awareness Week and World Cancer Day – A Glimpse of My Participation

2012 National Cancer Awareness Week and World Cancer Day – A Glimpse of My Participation

Reynaldo O. Joson, MD, MHA, MHPEd, MSc Surg

March 12, 2012

January 18-22, 2012 is National Cancer Awareness Week in the Philippines.   

The objective of the National Cancer Awareness Week declaration was to create, renew and maintain awareness on cancer as a disease.  In my small way, I participated in the celebration by sharing to my patients and friends through Facebook, WordPress.com blogs, and group emails an article with the title of “What is Cancer” posted in the American Cancer Society website.  I felt this article was very simple and easy to understand and it pointed out some common misconceptions and misunderstandings (underlined) being held by the lay people.    These were the primary reasons why I picked this and shared it.   The other thing that I did was to post the leading causes of cancers in the Philippines.  These were my contributions this year (See details below.)

What is cancer?

The body is made up of trillions of living cells. Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person’s life, normal cells divide faster to allow the person to grow. After the person becomes an adult, most cells divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells or to repair injuries.

Cancer begins when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.

Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. Cancer cells can also invade (grow into) other tissues, something that normal cells cannot do. Growing out of control and invading other tissues are what makes a cell a cancer cell.

Cells become cancer cells because of damage to DNA. DNA is in every cell and directs all its actions. In a normal cell, when DNA gets damaged the cell either repairs the damage or the cell dies. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired, but the cell doesn’t die like it should. Instead, this cell goes on making new cells that the body does not need. These new cells will all have the same damaged DNA as the first cell does.

People can inherit damaged DNA, but most DNA damage is caused by mistakes that happen while the normal cell is reproducing or by something in our environment. Sometimes the cause of the DNA damage is something obvious, like cigarette smoking. But often no clear cause is found.

In most cases the cancer cells form a tumor. Some cancers, like leukemia, rarely form tumors. Instead, these cancer cells involve the blood and blood-forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow.

Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and form new tumors that replace normal tissue. This process is called metastasis. It happens when the cancer cells get into the bloodstream or lymph vessels of our body.

No matter where a cancer may spread, it is always named for the place where it started. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the liver is still called breast cancer, not liver cancer. Likewise, prostate cancer that has spread to the bone is metastatic prostate cancer, not bone cancer.

Different types of cancer can behave very differently. For example, lung cancer and breast cancer are very different diseases. They grow at different rates and respond to different treatments. That is why people with cancer need treatment that is aimed at their particular kind of cancer.

Not all tumors are cancerous. Tumors that aren’t cancer are called benign. Benign tumors can cause problems — they can grow very large and press on healthy organs and tissues. But they cannot grow into (invade) other tissues. Because they can’t invade, they also can’t spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). These tumors are almost never life threatening.

Leading Cancers in the Philippines

Top 5, both sexes – Breast, Lung, Liver, Colon/Rectum, Cervix Uteri

Top 5, males – Lung, Liver, Colon/Rectum, Prostate, Stomach

Top 5, females – Breast, Cervix Uteri, Lung, Colon/Rectum, Ovary

Source: 2010 Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates

February4, 2012 is World Cancer Day.   

Upon the invitation of Dr. Cecile Llave of the University of the Philippines Manila, I attended a whole day conference dubbed as “A GLOBAL CALL TO ACTION: Public-Private Partnership for Cancer Care and Control” on February 3, 2012, at the Diamond Hotel, Manila.   At the end of the conference, together with other people, I, affiliated with Manila Doctors Hospital, University of the Philippines Manila, and Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center, signed the following pledge of commitment:


We commit to support the World Cancer Declaration to prevent cancer and to save lives.

We commit to promote healthy lifestyle, vaccination and screening for the prevention and early detection of cancer.

We commit to take immediate steps to help reduce the national cancer burden.

As we Move As One, we can achieve a cancer-free Philippines.



The Declaration calls on the world to take immediate steps to reduce the global cancer burden by committing to the 11 Declaration targets and providing resources and political backing for the priority actions needed to achieve them.


  1. Sustainable delivery systems will be in place to ensure that effective cancer control programs are available in all countries.
  2. The measurement of the global cancer burden and the impact of cancer control interventions will have improved significantly.
  3. Global tobacco consumption, obesity and alcohol intake levels will have fallen significantly.
  4. Populations in the areas affected by HPV and HBV will be covered by universal vaccination programs.
  5. Public attitudes towards cancer will improve and damaging myths and misconceptions about the disease will be dispelled.
  6. Many more cancers will be diagnosed when still localized through the provision of screening and early detection programs and high levels of public and professional awareness about important cancer warning signs.
  7. Access to accurate cancer diagnosis, appropriate cancer treatments, supportive care, rehabilitation services and palliative care will have improved for all patients worldwide.
  8. Effective pain control measures will be available universally to all cancer patients in pain.
  9. The number of training opportunities available for health professionals in different aspects of cancer control will have improved significantly.
  10. Emigration of health workers with specialist training in cancer control will have reduced dramatically.
  11. There will be major improvements in cancer survival rates in all countries.

A suggested quick action is the prevention and control of the five leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use. 

For queries, email: rjoson2001@yahoo.com; rjoson@maniladoctors.com.ph

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