Comprehensive national cancer prevention and control programs aim to reduce cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality and improve the quality of life of cancer patients in a defined population, through the systematic and equitable implementation of evidence based interventions for prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care, making the best use of available resources. Because of the wealth of available knowledge, all countries can, at some level, implement these basic components of cancer control:
• Prevention of cancer offers the greatest public health potential and the most cost-effective long-term method of cancer control. We have sufficient knowledge to prevent around 40% of cancers, most of which are linked to tobacco use, unhealthy diet or infectious agents, amongst other factors.
• Early detection diagnoses the disease at an early stage, when it has a high potential for cure. Interventions are available which allow the early detection of around one third of cases.
• Treatment aims to cure disease, prolong life and improve the quality of remaining life after the diagnosis of cancer is confirmed by the appropriate available procedures. The most effective and efficient treatment is linked to early detection programmes and follows evidence-based standards of care.
• Palliative care meets the needs of all patients requiring relief from symptoms and of psychosocial and supportive care, particularly those with advanced stages who have a very low chance of being cured or who are facing the terminal phase of the disease.
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization