World Cancer Day: “I Am and I Will”

Feb. 1, 2021 / By Kelly Long, BS, CPC, CPCO, CAPM

World Cancer Day, which falls on Feb 4, 2021 seeks to build awareness across the international community that cancer can lead to preventable suffering and injustice, and that efforts are needed to significantly reduce illness and death from the disease. As an individual who has worked in the health care industry for over 20 years, I have seen my share of medical documentation where a patient has been given this devastating diagnosis and must suddenly learn to navigate a new reality of medical appointments, treatment plans and staggering life changes.

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • Almost 1.9 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2021.
  • Approximately 608,570 Americans are expected to die of cancer in 2021, which translates to about 1,670 deaths per day.
  • Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease.
  • As of 2018, the death rate from cancer had dropped to 149 per 100,000 (a decline of 31 percent) because of reductions in smoking, as well as improvements in early detection and treatment for some cancers. This decline translates into about 3.2 million fewer cancer deaths from 1991 to 2018 and is largely driven by progress against the four most common cancer types—lung, colorectal, breast and prostate.
  • The risk of developing cancer increases with advancing age. Eighty percent of all cancers in the United States are diagnosed in people 55 years of age or older.
  • In the U.S., an estimated 41 out of 100 men and 39 out of 100 women will develop cancer during their lifetime.
  • The National Cancer Institute estimates that cancer-related direct medical costs in the U.S. were $183 billion in 2015 and are projected to increase to $246 billion by 2030, a 34 percent increase based only on population growth and aging.

Preventive measures play such an important role in the early detection of many cancers. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the American Cancer Society was one of many organizations that recommended routine cancer screenings and elective medical procedures be postponed to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This guidance, compounded by the fear of catching COVID-19 in health care settings, resulted in a steep drop in routine screenings. Today, screenings and preventive visits with health care providers are slowly getting back to pre-COVID .

Oncology providers highly recommend their patients compile their own personal medical record following a cancer diagnosis. According to American Society of Clinical Oncology, a complete personal medical record should include the following information:

  • Your diagnosis, including the specific cancer type and stage
  • Date you were diagnosed
  • Copies of diagnostic test results and pathology reports
  • Complete treatment information, such as chemotherapy drug names and doses, sites and doses of radiation therapy
  • Start and end dates for all treatments
  • Results of treatment and any complications or side effects
  • Information about palliative care, including medications for pain management, nausea, or other side effects
  • A schedule for follow-up care
  • Contact information for the doctors and treatment centers involved in your diagnosis and treatment, as well as others who have cared for you in the past, such as your family doctor
  • Dates and details of other major illnesses, chronic health conditions, and hospitalizations
  • Family medical history
  • Details of past physical exams, including cancer screening tests and immunizations

It’s reassuring and important to note that more than one-third of cancer cases can be prevented, while another third can be cured if detected early and treated properly. Treatment options and scientific knowledge continue to advance and despite the negative impact of COVID-19, I believe we can continue to rally to address cancer in our communities and as a nation.

The 2021 theme for World Cancer Day is “I Am and I Will.” This theme seeks to counter negative attitudes and the fatalistic belief that nothing can be done about cancer. Instead, our personal actions can be powerful and impactful. Let us stand together and continue to support those affected by cancer and continue the diligent work towards a cure.

Kelly Long is a clinical development analyst with 3M Health Information Systems.

With the right tools and meaningful insights at hand, clinicians can deliver more informed and targeted care to achieve better clinical outcomes.