World Cancer Day celebrates each year on the 4th of February worldwide and in Samoa. It is a global initiative that unites everyone together in the fight against this universal epidemic which knows no boundary. This year 2019, marks the 4th year that the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Samoa Cancer Society and its stakeholders commemorate this important event.
Cancer is currently the second leading cause of death globally with a recent increase to 18.1million new cases and 9.6million deaths1. In Samoa, cancer is the second highest killer after the cardiovascular diseases according to our National Health Statistics in 2017. Mortality is high because of the limited primary health care and cancer treatments and the lack of effective screening programs delay diagnosis at the stage where some cancers are easily treatable.
It is difficult to estimate the cost of cancer in Samoa but health expenditure on NCD’s in Samoa accounts for over 40% of the total health expenditure, and this is mostly spent on clinical care2. Cancer is an increasingly major cause of mortality and morbidity internationally3.
The main objectives of Cancer Day worldwide area;
To save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about cancer
Pressing Governments and individuals across the world to take positive actions against the disease
This year’s main theme is ‘I am and I will’ elucidating on the call for action urging every individual on their commitment to take positive actions against cancer. ‘I am and I will’ continues to be the theme for the next two years and this 3-year campaign offers the opportunity to generate enduring impacts by increasing public and community engagements and building individual awareness and impact-driven action5.
Over the years, a lot of combined efforts through health programs and activities have been implemented to boost public awareness on the preventions of cancer. In 2018, a consultation was held in Samoa for the first time to discuss on the palliative care approach that is needed for our cancer patients. The outcome of this consultation was the drafting of the Cancer Palliative Guidelines which will be used by all our clinicians and hospitals including our private clinics. A Cancer Registry is currently in its final draft, which will be of great assistance to further improve the tracking system for our cancer patients. Risk factors are packaged into the NCDs education and promotion messages that are continuously publicized for public awareness so that every individual is encouraged to take ownership of their health.
The Ministry of Health and its Health Sector in collaboration with its stakeholders continue to monitor and provide relevant assistance through up scaling interventions to raise public awareness on the importance of healthy choices and the campaign in our fight against cancer. On the other hand, Samoa Cancer Society keeps on with all public awareness and initiating most of health programs by engaging the general public towards achieving this common cause. Improving efforts to prevent cancer in Samoa requires a multi-sector approach and the support of everyone in the village communities, families, churches, workplaces and the government as a whole.
This year’s activities revolve around the general public as also aligned with the global objectives and National Policies and Strategies in place on cancer preventions.
A series of continuous community outreach will take place in addition with media awareness messages on cancer preventive measures. A ‘Health Fun Run’ was held on Saturday 2nd February at the Tuanaimato Complex which included the general public not only to boost their physical health but generate the opportunities to join forces to support the campaign against cancer. A Sunday Service was held at the Vaiala EFKS Church on the 3rd February remembering those who have passed on from cancer and those who are still living with the disease. Cancer affects all ages, and it is important that every program and health message is reached to everyone, so that our people are more aware of all symptoms, treatment and control measures of cancer.
The Ministry of Health and stakeholders therefore urge and encourage the public to come forward for cancer check up and screening at the main hospitals for early diagnosis and treatment. Prevention is better than cure.
Ma le fa’aaloalo lava,
Leausa T. Dr Take Naseri
Director General of Health