World Cancer Day 2013 Aims to Debunk Myths
Cancer is a disease that does not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity or nationality, and nearly everyone knows someone who has been touched by some form of the illness.
Though overall cancer deaths have been on a steady decline since the 1990s in the U.S., the disease is still the number one cause of death in the world. It kills an estimated 7.6 million people each year - more than AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria combined.
These numbers can be very overwhelming for cancer patients. Organizations like the Cancer Support Community Benjamin Center in West Los Angeles offer critical support to patients, survivors and their families through free mind-body classes and support groups.
Sharon Holly was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.
"All of a sudden you're given a diagnosis and now you have to find out all about cancer," Holly said. "I didn't even know what cancer was when I was first found out. I mean, I've heard the word, but I didn't even know."
Holly found the Benjamin Center through an online search for "cancer" and "yoga," combining her unwanted diagnosis with one of her life passions. The center serves roughly 1,800 people each year and is funded entirely through fundraisers, private donations and grants.
In honor of World Cancer Day Monday, the Benjamin Center offered a new "Balance Challenge" class to patients and survivors, which combines yoga and aerobics. Exercises like these can help patients grow stronger physically and psychologically.
"I love the balance and I love the dance," said Vivian Comage, a breast cancer survivor. "It's just wonderful."
Each year, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) chooses a theme for World Cancer Day. This year, the theme is to dispel these top four myths about cancer:
- Cancer is just a health issue.
- Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries.
- Cancer is a death sentence.
- Cancer is my fate.
The goal of World Cancer Day is to educate and empower patients, survivors, and their families and to raise awareness about cancer around the globe.
"There's a tremendous hope and opportunity right now in cancer treatments and cancer research," said Dr. Michael Wong, an oncologist and professor at the USC Keck School of Medicine.
In addition to advanced medicine and research, Holly and other survivors at the Benjamin Center said community is their strongest tool in the fight against cancer.
"Healing cancer is the body, mind, everything together, not just the medicine," Holly said. "It's just beenn amazing to have others, so we're not in this alone."