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National Cancer Awareness Day 2021: History and significance

Every year on November 7, India commemorates National Cancer Awareness Day to increase awareness about cancer, which affects 1.1 million people in the country each year. National Cancer Awareness Day was first announced in September 2014 by then-Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, with November 7 chosen as the date to commemorate Nobel laureate Marie Curie’s birth anniversary, who was born on this date in 1867 and whose research led to the development of radiotherapy to treat cancer.

The creation of the National Cancer Control Program, which was rolled out to provide cancer treatment facilities across the country, was a significant step in the government’s fight against this fatal disease in 1975. The scheme’s objective was altered ten years later, in 1984-85, to focus on cancer early detection and prevention.

People are encouraged to visit hospitals, Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) centres, and municipal clinics for free cancer screening on November 7 each year. The day also sees the distribution of books and leaflets to enhance public awareness about early cancer detection and prevention.

The necessity for early identification of this disease in India derives from the fact that a substantial proportion of instances are found in patients after the disease is already advanced, lowering the odds of survival.

Cancer is the biggest cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with approximately 10 million deaths expected by 2020. Last year, cancer of the lungs, colon and rectum, liver, stomach, and breast was the most common cause of death related to the disease.

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