By Susan Anasagasti
The Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, joins organizations across the world to honor World Cancer Day on Feb. 4. This year’s theme, “I am and I will,” empowers individuals to make a personal commitment to take action by learning about cancer risks and getting regular cancer screenings.
The global initiative is led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), which comprises more than 1,100 organizations in more than 170 countries to raise awareness about cancer risks and cancer prevention.
This year, its mission takes on new meaning.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer screenings and treatment have dropped significantly,” said Ruben Mesa, MD, FACP, executive director of the Mays Cancer Center.
“The Mays Cancer Center and UT Health San Antonio have worked very hard during the pandemic to ensure people can receive the health care they need in a safe environment,” Dr. Mesa said. “Whether it’s a mole that looks suspicious to you or a lump or a pain or any other symptom, that can be of concern. It’s important for you to be aware of your body and to contact your health care provider to be checked out.”
According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second-leading cause of death globally. From 2018 to 2040, worldwide cancer cases are projected to increase by 63% from 18.1 million to 29.5 million. Cancer among Latinos is projected to rise by a staggering 142% by 2030.
“While the war on cancer is being fought on multiple fronts, much more is to be done,” Dr. Mesa said. “Cancer prevention and education are key aspects of our mission to decrease the burden of cancer in San Antonio, South Texas and around the world.”
The Mays Cancer Center’s Population Science and Prevention Program is advancing cancer prevention through comprehensive research, patient care, education and cancer control programs to improve health, lower cancer risk and detect cancer earlier when it’s most treatable.
A key aspect of this program is research being conducted at the center to advance the science of cancer in Latinos. Latinos face a higher risk for certain cancers, such as stomach and liver cancer, compared to whites. This stems from cultural barriers to care, low screening rates and underrepresentation in clinical studies.
“Our culturally relevant research and programs are helping our South Texas population, which is largely Latino, reduce their risk for cancer and disease, while laying the groundwork for equitable communities that give everyone a fair, just opportunity to achieve the best health possible,” said Amelie Ramirez, DrPH, associate director for community outreach and engagement for the Mays Cancer Center.
“Cancer screening is not a luxury. It is a crucial aspect to preserve your health. We know that cancer is a thief that can take our lives and be very harmful,” Dr. Mesa said. “But it’s a curable disease many times if we catch it early.”
He added, “Cancer never sleeps, and for cancer even a few weeks make an important difference.”
World Cancer Day is also a celebration of cancer survivors around the globe. In June 2019, the American Cancer Society estimated there were 17 million cancer survivors living in the United States. That number is expected to increase to more than 22 million by the year 2030.
Are you a cancer survivor? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story on #WorldCancerDay and tag @UTHealthsaMDAanderson on social media #IAmAndIWill.
For more information, please visit Population Science and Prevention | Mays Cancer Center.