First Lady Tobeka Madiba-Zuma says urgent action is needed to raise awareness and develop practical strategies to address the burden of cancer.

“Now more than ever, there is a need for a commitment to help drive advancements in policy and encourage implementation of comprehensive national cancer control plans,” said Madiba-Zuma.

Speaking a day before World Cancer Day, Madiba-Zuma — who is the founder and patron of the Tobeka Madiba-Zuma (TMZ) Foundation — said South Africans have a collective responsibility to support the Ministry of Health and NGOs who are tackling cancer amid insufficient resources and competing health priorities.

Madiba-Zuma encouraged everyone to use World Cancer Day for a concerted “advocacy push”.

She said government must live up to the new and ambitious global commitments and ensure that cancer interventions are adequately addressed in the next phase of the global health and development agendas.

World Cancer Day is observed every year on 4 February. The day is an opportunity to highlight the unique issues facing the country and the globe. It is also a platform to share best practice solutions and how they can be adapted in different settings.

Not beyond us

Taking place under the theme ‘Not beyond us’, World Cancer Day 2015 will take a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting that solutions do exist across the continuum of cancer and that they are within reach.

The 2015 campaign will be articulated around four key areas of focus: promoting healthy lifestyles – prevention and screening; improving early detection; universal access to treatment for all and care – maximising quality of life.

Madiba-Zuma said the TMZ Foundation takes a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer. She said solutions exist across the board — from home to primary health care services to tertiary institutions and hospices for quality and holistic patient care.

Making these solutions work, she said, can only be realized through a close working relationship with all the stakeholders.

“Of great significance about this approach is that it gives us the opportunity to look at how we can, as a collective, implement what we already know in the areas of prevention, early detection, treatment and care.

“Cancer is not about statistics. It is a disease that knows no boundaries and has or will affect us all either directly or indirectly during our lifetime. Action taken by every person, organisation and government will reduce the burden of cancer and premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25% by 2025.” said Madiba-Zuma.

Currently, 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide every year. About four million people aged 30 to 69 years die prematurely.

At least one third of the most common cancers can be prevented through vaccination, not smoking, reduction of alcohol consumption, healthy eating, obesity reduction and improved physical activity.

The adoption of healthy behaviour early in life reduces the risk of cancer and other NCDs in adulthood.