Introduction

This study session is about cancers – a complex group of more than 100 non-communicable diseases. Cancers are characterised by the rapid creation of abnormal cells which grow beyond their usual boundaries, invading adjoining parts of the body and spreading to other organs. Cancers can develop in any part of the body. Over 11 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed every year around the world and at least 25 million people are currently living with the disease. In 2008, cancers were responsible for about 7.6 million deaths worldwide, accounting for 13% of all deaths in that year – more than the total dying from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 70% of all cancer deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. This is mainly because specialist equipment for cancer diagnosis and treatment, and anti-cancer drugs, are very expensive and many poorer countries cannot afford enough for their populations.

In this study session you will learn how cancers develop from normal cells, the effects of cancers on the human body and the risk factors for cancer. Then we will focus on screening for breast and cervical cancer, and conclude with palliative care for a person who is dying with advanced cancer.

Last modified: Thursday, 3 July 2014, 7:03 PM