THIS is International Cancer Day, one of the many events designed to raise awareness around various cancers and raise funding for research and support.
This is entirely appropriate as cancer will soon be the world’s most common disease. Ireland’s cancer strategy estimates that current rates will double by 2040 despite improvements in services. This is a consequence of an ageing population and advances made in conquering other diseases.
Today’s global event focusses on the 8.2 milion people who die from cancer every year — almost 10,000 people die because of cancer in Ireland each year. Of that 8.2m — 4m people die prematurely — between the ages of 30 and 69.
The story is not, however, relentlessly glum. Survival rates are increasing and 60% of cancers are cured. What was once an immediate death sentence is now something of an entirely different order — a health crisis rather than a life crisis.
Nevertheless the figures are chilling. One-in-three of us will develop cancer and an average of 30,000 cases are diagnosed each year. That number is expected to rise to over 40,000 per year by 2020.
Trying to conquer this disease is noble work and deserves all the support we can muster if it is to be, as it surely will be, beaten. The estimates suggesting a greater incidence of the disease in a few decades time means however that we need to grapple with ever thornier end-of-life issues.
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