Wellness for Cancer Initiative

2023 Trends

Cancer is a global health challenge. In 2020, over 19 million people around the world were diagnosed with cancer, and almost 10 million died from the disease. By 2040 new cases are expected to be near 28 million, with 16 million deaths.

Although many obstacles stand in the way of access to cancer prevention, treatment and supportive care—especially for underserved communities—large-scale efforts are underway within cancer advocacy, survivorship, prevention and integrative oncology organizations joining together to move the needle on prevention and survivorship. Here are GWI’s Wellness for Cancer Initiative’s top trends for 2023.

TREND 1: Your Lifestyle Matters

Promotion of healthy lifestyles continues to be a key component for cancer prevention and healthy living during and beyond cancer treatment.

It is well accepted that up to 50% of cancers could be prevented (reducing risks) by modifying lifestyle behaviors.  This means mortality rates are impacted by lifestyle choices. For example, cancer specific mortality is said to be reduced by 31-50% with postdiagnosis physical activity for breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Crucial components of this strategy also include smoking cessation, reducing alcohol consumption, safe sex, eating well, moving more and reducing factors that contribute to being overweight, obese, and metabolic syndrome.

Last year’s initiative trends focused on prevention.  Members of this initiative continue to believe that prevention is the way forward.  The global cancer epidemic cannot be overcome by medical treatment alone.

TREND 2: Working with Cancer Comes to the Forefront

Fifty percent of individuals with cancer will be afraid to share their cancer diagnosis with their employers. Yet 92 percent of patients believe the support they get at work positively impacts their health.  Although not all employers are aware of this fact, companies large and small are taking a pledge to provide a better workplace for individuals with cancer.

The working with cancer pledge has already made a global impact in opening the conversation and facilitating support on many levels. This trend will continue to gain strength.

The story of the Pledge

“After Publicis CEO, Arthur Sadoun, had his own experience with a cancer diagnosis, he saw firsthand just how hard it can be to talk about cancer in the workplace. Upon sharing his story publicly with our teams and partners, he received an outpouring of emails from people sharing stories about themselves and their family members impacted by cancer. He learned that, after being scared for their health, cancer patients are too often scared for their jobs and feel the need to hide their illness. He promised himself that, the moment he recovered, he would take a big initiative to start to erase this fear – and Working With Cancer was born.” (Source: https://www.workingwithcancerpledge.com/about-the-pledge

Making Integrative Medicine for Cancer Prevention and Cancer Patient Management Understood and Utilized

In the West, Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) refers to practices such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, meditation and yoga.  Since 2002, the World Health Organization has encouraged and strengthened the term TCIM (Traditional, Complementary, and Integrative Medicine).

TCIM is used by high-income countries as an adjunct to conventional medicine, while in low-income countries it is considered primary health care.

  • For example, it is estimated that between 50% – 90% of adult or pediatric patients in Latin America using TCIM during cancer. Natural products and nutritional supplements are most used, followed by spiritual practices.
  • For example, in Africa TCIM providers are often the first line of health care providers when an individual presents with symptoms of cancer. African medicine can be classified as herbalism, divination and spiritualism.

TCIM alongside conventional cancer treatment can help bridge health care gaps in delivering evidence-informed, patient-centered care. This growing field uses lifestyle modifications, mind and body therapies (e.g., acupuncture, massage, meditation and yoga), and natural products to improve symptom management and quality of life among patients with cancer.

Globally TCIM and conventional medicine can have conflicting approaches.  It is the growing field of integrative oncology that provides guidance and standards to help doctors, patients and families navigate between the two worlds.

TREND 4: Gaining a Clearer Understanding of the Global Cancer Burden to Better Address Prevention and Treatment Needs

Low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) have little access to cancer screening facilities and trained medical professionals. Moreover, the availability of conventional treatment and supportive care is extremely limited.

  • The LMICs account for 80% of the global cancer burden but only five% of the global spend to combat the disease. These countries will continue to fall behind unless policy and changes are implemented.
  • Highly cost-effective strategies of tobacco-control have not been well implemented, with more than 80% of global smokers living in LMICs.
  • Access to vaccines against Hepatitis B and HPV in LMICs has widened but more work needs to be done.
  • The adaption of a Western lifestyle contributes to a growing incidence of disease.
  • There is limited access to prevention.
  • Plus, there is a lack of survivorship and palliative care.

A group of 700 participants met in 2020 to develop recommendations for integrative medicine that address these global challenges.  Recommendations identified include policy to address health care disparities, funding, professional education for LMICs clinicians and researchers, and global clinical practice guidelines.

Source: Integrative Oncology: Addressing the global challenges of cancer prevention and treatment” https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.3322/caac.21706