To mark Cancer Prevention Month (every February), the Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences (FNHS) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) held a public talk on March 1, 2018, titled, "Cancer Burden and Control in Lebanon.” Dr. Marcel Massoud, Hematology-Oncology specialist at Notre Dame de Secours, University Hospital Center, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), delivered the talk.
The event aimed to raise public awareness and education about cancer, and highlight the role of the government, civil organizations, and individuals in the fight against the dreaded disease.
For the most part, cancer is about uncontrolled cell growth. Risk factors for cancer can be categorized as non-modifiable, such as heredity and age, and modifiable ones, primarily lifestyle factors (tobacco smoking, sedentary living, unhealthy diet (low fruit and vegetable intake, high red meat and processed food intake), excessive alcohol consumption, excessive exposure to solar UV radiation), obesity (excess body fat), and infections, such as HPV .
Recent figures from Lebanon reveal high prevalence rates of tobacco smoking (32%), physical inactivity (39%), and obesity (31%) among adult men and women.
Symptoms and signs of cancer include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, skin changes, mass or swelling of a body part, loss of normal function, and pain.
In 2014, breast cancer was the most common type followed by colorectal cancer in women, while prostate cancer (followed by lung cancer) were the most common types affecting men.
Despite the gloom, Lebanon witnessed a drop in age-standardized cancer mortality trends in recent years. “The rate of new cancer cases is expected to rise in the coming years owing to an increase in population, aging, and a negative change in lifestyle habits” (shift toward Western dietary habits and passive entertainment brought by diffusion of using smart devices).
Although the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon established a National Cancer Registry, Lebanon lags behind rigorous cancer cases’ surveillance and comprehensive cancer prevention policy. At present, large-scale screening campaigns for breast, colorectal, and cervical cancers have been carried out.
“I/WE can do much to reduce cancer risk/ prevent it if I/WE rethink lifestyle choices” (avoid tobacco smoking, engage in plenty of physical activity, eat a healthy diet, limit alcohol consumption, avoid direct sun exposure, opt for screening, as per physician’s recommendation). Also, I/ WE can play role in providing support to cancer patients and their families.
In addition, WE can educate people about the link between lifestyle habits and risk of cancer; encourage schools and workplaces to implement nutrition and physical activity policies that can help people to adopt healthy habits for life; and call on our government to commit adequate resources to reduce cancer deaths, and provide health care to cancer patients.