Cancer and Public Health
By Sam MacArthur

Whether you’re a public health and cancer medical professional, or you’re simply curious about why cancer is a public health issue, cancer is an issue that touches the lives of nearly everyone around the world. Whether you’ve experienced cancer, a loved one has experienced cancer, or you’ve dealt with the stress of waiting for cancer test results, being diagnosed with cancer opens up a world of scary unknowns. 

While treatments for cancer are becoming more advanced every year, there is still no cure for cancer. As long as cancer continues to claim the lives of people around the world, cancer and public health will continue to go hand in hand. When polled, Americans consistently rank cancer as a public health concern – in fact, they often rank it as their biggest public health concern. While many people have not personally experienced cancer, almost everyone knows what it’s like to watch a loved one go through cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

cancer public health

What Makes Cancer a Public Health Issue? 

Awareness is an essential part of answering why cancer is a public health issue. While it’s nearly impossible to find someone who hasn’t heard of cancer, many people have misinformation or a poor understanding of what cancer actually is. Some people believe that getting a cancer diagnosis is a death sentence, while others don’t understand that their behavior can make them more susceptible to cancer, even if their genetics are not especially predisposed to the disease. 

Cancer awareness is also an important part of cancer research centers getting the funding they need to continue working toward finding better treatments for cancer – and hopefully, finding a cure. There are some research institutions that cater to researching a particular type of cancer, while others research cancer in general. Some research centers are specific to cancers that affect certain populations (such as children’s cancer or women’s cancer), while others are more open. 

Awareness of cancer can also lead to people donating to cancer relief charities. Many people who are going through cancer treatment struggle to pay their bills. While the cost of cancer treatment can be astronomical, many people also lose their jobs during their battle with cancer, and struggle to pay their bills. This can result in them having a hard time keeping their car, their home, and paying for daily necessities, including medications. Many charities provide financial relief to people who are struggling during cancer treatment. This can help to relieve some of the stress of how to pay for bills while undergoing treatment, allowing cancer patients to focus on rest and getting well. 

While supporting people who are going through cancer is a huge part of the reason cancer is a public health issue, prevention and education is also key. In order to lower the total number of people who have cancer, it’s essential to continue to make public health efforts to educate people on how to prevent cancer. 

A part of cancer prevention is targeting specific groups that have a high risk of specific types of cancer. For example, encouraging women to get regular mammograms is an important part of the fight against breast cancer. Encouraging people to wear sunscreen when spending time outdoors is an important part of working to prevent skin cancer. When the population embraces cancer as a public health issue, they’re more likely to heed these warnings, helping to slow the rate of cancer nationwide. Public health and cancer prevention must go hand in hand to move forward in the fight against the disease.

When awareness, prevention, and support of cancer patients come together, public health organizations are better able to rise in the fight against cancer. When cancer research continues to advance, the next generation of scientists and doctors are more likely to want to commit their careers to putting a stop to cancer. Next, let’s take a look at some of the staggering statistics on cancer in the United States. 

Cancer Statistics 

While most people have some personal experience with cancer, it’s important to delve into the statistics in order to understand just how serious the cancer problem is in the United States. Let’s take a look at some statistics on cancer that will help you to understand how widespread the rates of cancer are across the nation. 

When researching statistics about cancer, it’s important to remember that there are several factors at play. You’ll want to take a look at how the statistics are presented. Be sure to read whether the statistics are general, separated by gender, by age, etc. It’s also important to remember that many people who have cancer do not know that they’ve been affected, as it can take years for a person to get a cancer diagnosis. Stats about cancer can be helpful in understanding how widespread the disease has become, but it’s also important to remember that behind each number is an actual person. Each person has other factors that affect their prognosis – their age, gender, progression of cancer, access to health care and treatment, and more. 

Let’s take a look at statistics about cancer in the United States. 

General US Cancer Statistics

  • There are more than 550,000 death by cancer per year in the United States. 
  • At least 8.9 million Americans have been affected by cancer at some point in their lives, according to statistics of cancer in the United States. As previously mentioned, more than 8.9 million people have probably had cancer at some point in their lives, due to the fact that people who currently have cancer may be unaware of their condition.
  • Over $156 billion is spent per year on cancer, according to cancer statistics in the US.

Cancer Statistics By Type Of Cancer

  • Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the United States, as it causes the most deaths from cancer per year.
  • Stomach cancer used to be the second most deadly cancer in the United States, but the rate of death from cancer per year for stomach cancer has dropped drastically in the past two decades.
  • Testicular cancer and thyroid cancer have the lowest rates of cancer deaths per year in the US.

Statistics On Cancer By Gender

If you’re researching cancer deaths in the US per year, know that there are many factors that affect an individual’s chances of survival. Searching for information on cancer deaths per year worldwide can give you a sense of hope when you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, or it can present some scary numbers that make it hard to stay positive. Cancer in the US statistics paint a broad picture, and don’t give any information on your individual situation. 

It’s important to remember that there are many factors that can affect a person’s likelihood of making it through cancer, including their attitude, their access to care, their nutrition, their compliance with their treatment and medications, and more. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, staying positive and hopeful, while more easily said than done, is one of the best things you can do to increase the likelihood that you’ll make it through on the other side. 

Risk Factors for Cancer

It’s important to know whether you have risk factors for cancer. While it can be scary to know whether cancer may be a part of your future, knowing whether you have risk factors for cancer can help you take steps for proper prevention and screening. 

Let’s take a look at what are some risk factors for cancer. 

  • Breast cancer – Family history is one of the most important risk factors for breast cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may want to consider getting a genetic test to find out whether you carry the gene that makes breast cancer more likely. 
  • Pancreatic cancer – Pancreatic cancer likelihood increases with age. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than women. High risk factors for cancer include diabetes, which is true for pancreatic cancer as well. 
  • Colon cancer – Obesity and a lack of physical activity increase the likelihood of colon cancer. Dietary risk factors for cancer include eating large amounts of processed meat and red meat. Including these items in the diet regularly increase the likelihood of colon cancer. 
  • Prostate cancer – A low level of physical activity and an unhealthy diet are risk factors for prostate cancer. Family history can also increase the risk of prostate cancer. Men in North America and Northern Europe are more likely than men in other areas to develop prostate cancer. Men who live in urban environments in Asia are are also beginning to develop high rates of prostate cancer. 
  • Ovarian cancer – Age is a major factor when it comes to developing ovarian cancer, as this type of cancer is rare in women who are under 40 years old. Never having children, or having a first full term pregnancy after the age of 35 also increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Women who have a family history of reproductive cancer are more likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who do not have such history. 
  • Lung cancer – While smoking is an obvious factor for lung cancer, there are other issues that make lung cancer likely to occur. Exposure to secondhand smoke, exposure to asbestos, and exposure to other harmful chemicals can all increase the risk of lung cancer. 

While it can be scary to realize that you have some risk factors for cancer, it’s important to remember that not everyone who has risk factors develops the disease. If you’re concerned about your risk of developing cancer, talk with your doctor about how to reduce your risk, as well as to discuss screenings that are necessary for early detection. 

Cancer Prevention and Treatment

If you’re searching for information on how to prevent cancer, you’ll find many resources and varying opinions on the best ways to keep yourself safe. While there are many ideas on how to prevent cancer, some people are simply more likely to get cancer at some point in their lives than others. Let’s take a look at some of the things that you can do to manage your cancer risk, no matter how likely your genetics make it that you’ll need to deal with cancer at some point in your life. 

Prevention of Cancer

One of the best things that you can do to prevent cancer is get regular medical screenings as recommended for your age. Your doctor will talk with you about tests and screenings that you need to go through to ensure proper prevention of cancer, and it’s important that you follow through with their recommendations. Many people do not get the recommended screenings needed for early cancer detection. Some people feel that if they find out that they have cancer, or that they have pre-cancerous cells, their life will become more stressful than before. While this may be true, knowing allows you to take the steps necessary for prevention and treatment of cancer. Other people feel that because the do not have a family history of cancer, it’s impossible for them to be cancer victims. This simply is not true, as many environmental factors can interact with genetics and create cancer. 

There are several reasons why screenings are necessary for the prevention of cancer. When cancer is detected early, it’s easier for doctors to figure out how to treat cancer in a way that is more likely to have a positive outcome. Cancer prevention and treatment early on in the process is key in order to live a healthy life after cancer. 

Cancer Treatment

If you find out that you or a loved one has cancer, one of the first conversations that you’ll have with your doctor is how to move forward with cancer treatment. While cancer treatment can be tough, it can also be extremely effective. Not all cancer treatments are the same. While some people may struggle through chemotherapy and radiation with terrible symptoms and side effects, other people are able to go about their daily lives with relatively no side effects at all. It’s important to remember that every cancer treatment experience is individual, and depends on several factors. 

After it’s determined that you have cancer, your doctor will likely order several more tests for you. These tests will help to determine whether your cancer has spread to other areas, and how large the area is that’s been affected by the cancer. It’s likely that your doctor will ask for these tests to be done as soon as possible. The sooner your doctor gets the information on how your cancer has progressed, the sooner they’ll be able to prescribe a treatment for you. 

When you find out that you have cancer and you’ve decided to go through with treatment, you may want to get a second opinion. Many people find that a second opinion gives them more options for treatment. If you decide to get a second opinion, be sure to do so quickly. While it may be tempting to wait around, talking with more than one doctor right away increases the chance that your treatment will be appropriate for your cancer. 

Your doctor may prescribe chemotherapy as a part of your cancer treatment. Chemotherapy can be taken through an IV, as a pill, or as a gel. Your doctor will talk with you about the specific types of drugs that will be in your chemotherapy cocktail, as well as the side effects that you can expect to encounter. It’s key to remember that while side effects are common, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience all of the possible side effects. Taking chemotherapy one day at a time is key to keeping a good attitude and making it through. 

Your doctor may also prescribe radiation therapy. Radiation therapy can be targeted to a specific area of the body, or can go through the body as a whole. While radiation can be difficult, it can be incredibly effective at shrinking tumors. 

Your doctor may also decide that it makes sense for you to undergo surgery to remove cancer. Your doctor will talk with you about this process, and let you know what you can expect before and after surgery. Your doctor may have a conversation with you to decide whether it makes sense for you to move forward with surgery, and give you information to help you make a decision. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are undergoing treatment, be sure to reach out for support. This journey can be hard, and there are others who are in the same place and ready to give you support. Talk with your doctor and your hospital’s chaplain about cancer support groups in the area. 

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