Cancer - Which are the main types of this condition and which can be treated?

A recent report on the incidence and mortality statistics for cancers worldwide from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (GLOBCAN) estimated that 12.7 million new cancer cases occurred in 2008. Of these, lung, female breast, colorectal and stomach cancers accounted for more than 40% of cases. By 2030, it is thought that over 22 million new cases will be diagnosed annually worldwide. Cancer is also a leading cause of death worldwide at around 7.6 million in 2008. This represents approximately 14% of all deaths, due to any cause. This percentage varied around the world ranging from 5% in Africa to 21% in the Western Pacific.

The World Health Organisation has identified cancer as one of the four leading threats to human health and development, together with cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. They say that the levels of cancer can be reduced in the future by preventing cancer from occurring in the first place, detecting cancer earlier and managing patients with cancer. Many people believe cancer to be a single disease, while in fact there are over 200 types of the condition, according to which part of the body or specific tissue it originates from. Many also believe that cancer is terminal but a number of cancers, when detected early, respond well to treatment and often with 100% cure rate. The National Cancer Intelligence Network in the UK stated in November 2012 that the rate of women dying from ovarian cancer in England has fallen by 20% in the last decade. Their report highlighted that the number of women surviving for five years following diagnosis has increased from 33% to 44%.

Lung cancer has been the most common cancer in the world for many years. The link between tobacco and lung cancer was discovered over 50 years ago. It is thought that there are more than one billion smokers in the world, which is around a quarter of all adults. Worldwide, the number of smokers is continuing to rise which will lead to large increases in lung cancer in the years to come. According to the WHO, Greece tops the list of the world’s smokers with an average per capital consumption of cigarettes of 3017, followed by Slovenia and the Ukraine, where per capita annul cigarette consumption is over 2500. The UK is 65th on the list with a per capita consumption rate of 750 per annum average. Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer diagnosed in women worldwide. Incidences have increased in most countries in recent decades with the most rapid increases occurring in developing countries.

However, if spotted early, it is also one of the most treatable. Cervical cancer is another affecting women where the cancer grows slowly and when detected early and treated has a 100% cure rate. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer. There is a wide geographical variation around the world. Incidence rates are increasing in countries where rates were low, particularly in Japan and Asian countries where their diets are becoming more westernised, red and processed meat, fibre and alcohol being a cause. Again with early diagnosis, Colo-rectal cancer, or bowel cancer, is one of the most treatable, indeed survival has doubled over the past 30 years A fall in the incidences of stomach cancer means that it is now fourth in the table, having been the most common cancer worldwide in the 1970s. This improvement may be due to better diets, food preservation and storage. Other common cancers which have a high treatment success rate include skin cancer, which is often 100% treatable, prostate cancer which if found early while still confined to the prostate gland itself has a 95% cure rate and testicular cancer, common in young men, but highly treatable. The drugs which medical science has developed to treat cancer are both complex and costly, so it is no surprise that treating cancer is one of the most expensive medical bills a person can be exposed to.

The prevalence of cancer, but also the success rate that doctors are now having treating many types of the disease mean that medical insurance should be a “must have” item for expatriates living abroad outside of the protection of their own domestic health system. Commenting on the costs of treatment, Debbie Purser, CEO of international private health providers April International UK said, “Cancers are now far more treatable that was the case 20 years ago. However the cost of that treatment can be very high. We have had cases where treatment costs for colon cancer have exceeded £65,000, whilst typically the cost of treating breast cancer can easily rise to over £30,000 and in one extreme case we have had with a 40 year patient, the cost touched over £130,000. At April International UK, we will meet the cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment, both today and into the future, giving clients immense peace of mind.