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Why Are Cancer Awareness Days Important & How Can You Support the Cause?

 

It seems there's an awareness day for almost everything. There's #PenguinAwarenessDay, #NationalPersonalTrainerDay, #NationalHotDogDay – the list goes on and on and on. So amidst the deluge, does National Cancer Day, Oral Cancer Day, and World Cancer Awareness Day make that much of a difference? And if so, how?

If cancer has affected you or someone in your life in some way, you know how important it is to combat this terrible disease, and you probably want to ensure that, during these events, you are genuinely making a difference. For the benefit of all cancer patients, survivors, friends, and family members, we have some information and advice to ensure you can help make these cancer awareness days count and even help save lives.

Why Are Oral Cancer Day and World Cancer Day Important?

Cancer is a disease that affects a lot of people. It's the second leading cause of death in the US, and perhaps it has even affected you. In 2020, the American Cancer Society projects 1,806,590 new cancer cases and 606,520 cancer deaths in the United States. Their recent estimate for oral cancers (oral cavity & pharynx) is about 53,260 cases and 10,750 deaths. If you've been affected by cancer in any way, we send you an abundant amount of love, support, and strength.

How Does Raising Awareness Help?

A recent article published in the American Journal of Public Health offers some important critique of awareness days that can be used as a guiding light to ensure they have a real impact. They acknowledge that awareness days effectively increase discourse, but they criticize messaging for not being substantive or actionable enough. For instance, the article claims these days often focus solely on awareness-raising behaviors (IE encouraging people to wear a particular color that day) and that not enough people take actionable measures.

Wearing a particular color can be a valuable act of empathy, solidarity, and comfort, but there is an important lesson to be learned here. If you're taking part in cancer awareness activities, having some specific goals in mind that you want to contribute to achieving can be even more impactful.

World Cancer Day Issues

The World Cancer Day initiative offers a multitude of ways to help make real change across the globe by improving education and catalyzing personal, collective, and government action. Here are some of the issues they focus on:

  • Increasing knowledge about prevention
    • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30-50% of cancers are preventable. Educating people so they can make informed choices and so they can recognize early warning signs could have a significant impact on bringing that number closer to zero. We'll talk more about Oral Cancer preventative measures you can utilize and spread knowledge about in a bit.
  • Equal access to cancer diagnoses and treatment
    • A study of trends published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that mortality rates were about 30% higher for low-income adults between 25 and 64 years old in the United States from 1999-2001. That number rose to 56% higher between 2013-2015. And the WHO says about 70% of cancer deaths worldwide are in low and middle-income countries.
    • These numbers could be due to a lack of access to healthy lifestyle choices, the inability to pay for care, or limited access to skilled workforces capable of delivering quality cancer care.
  • Reducing the economic and financial impact of cancer
    • Aside from the catastrophic death toll and the emotional impact cancer has on the world, cancer costs the global economy upwards of a trillion dollars every year. By encouraging governments and organizations to invest more in prevention, research, and treatment, cancer could have a less devastating economic impact on the world.

What Preventative Measures Can You Take?

There are many steps you can take in your life to improve your health and wellbeing and to decrease your risk of getting cancer, like:

  • Avoiding tobacco products
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Limiting processed meats in your diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Protecting yourself from the sun
  • Vaccinating yourself against viral infections
  • Practicing safe sex
  • Not sharing needles
  • Performing regular self-exams
  • Visiting with your doctor and dentist regularly for checkups
  • And practicing good oral hygiene

Practicing Good Oral Hygiene

Practicing good oral hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent oral cancer. Be sure to brush at least twice a day, and don't forget to brush your tongue. Consider using helpful products like an antimicrobial mouthrinse and tongue scrapers. And be sure to see your dental professional for regular appointments – not only to keep your teeth pearly white but to check for any signs of cancer.

Seeing your doctor and your dentist for regular checkups is one of the best ways to catch cancer early – when it's most likely to be curable.

How to Raise Awareness

There are a lot of different ways you can raise awareness about these issues:

  • Social media posts
  • Discussions with friends, family, and coworkers
  • Attending events
  • Holding events
  • Calling or emailing politicians
  • Writing blog posts or articles for your local paper
  • Reaching out to local journalists
  • Volunteering
  • Making donations

When Are Cancer Awareness Days?

  • World Cancer Day – February 4th
  • Oral Cancer Awareness Month – April
  • National Cancer Survivor Day – 1st Sunday in June

See a full list of cancer awareness dates.

Although cancer is still one of the most serious problems facing the world today, a cancer diagnosis is not always a death sentence. Once considered deadly, some cancers are now treatable (and in other cases, actually curable). Advancements in science and medicine, public awareness of risk factors, preventative measures, and the importance of early detection have all contributed to forward momentum.

Now that you have a better understanding of the actionable steps you can take on awareness days, we hope that together we'll have a real impact in decreasing cancer prevalence. Now that would truly be something to smile about for everyone.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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