‘National Cancer Awareness Day’ is observed to highlight the significance of increased awareness about cancer prevention and early detection for the general public. National Cancer Control Programme was initiated in 1975 with a view to provide the cancer treatment facilities in the country. The programme was modified in 1984-85 to provide thrust to prevention and early detection of cancer.

National Cancer Awareness Day is observed on 7th November to coincide with the birth anniversary of the eminent scientist Madame Curie. Marie Curie is remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium, and her huge contribution to the fight against cancer. Her work led to the development of nuclear energy and radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer.

Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan had announced in 2014 that 7th November will be observed as National Cancer Awareness Day every year to generate awareness about early detection and avoid leading cancer causing lifestyles.

In India, nearly 1.1 million new cases are being reported annually. Two-thirds of cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, reducing patients’ chances of survival. It is estimated that one woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes in India. Tobacco (smoked and smokeless) use accounted for 3,17,928 deaths (approx) in men and women in 2018. Cancers of oral cavity and lungs account for over 25% of cancer deaths in males and cancer of breast and oral cavity account for 25% cancers in females.

A Lancet report reveals that the use of tobacco is a risk factor for 14 types of cancer. Other causes include alcohol, drug use, and poor diet. Unsafe sex is also the main risk factor for cervical cancer and is the second most common cancer type in women. High risk of lung cancer is tobacco use and air pollution.

As Health Minister of Delhi in the early 1990s, Dr Harsh Vardhan had launched the first state-level movement on cancer control. On a specific day in each year, people were encouraged to report to government hospitals, CGHS and municipal clinics for free screening, the Minister stated. Information booklets were widely circulated to generate awareness on how to avoid getting cancer and to look for signs of early symptoms.

As the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan advises that if detected early, cancer could be treated at a fraction of the cost that is incurred when diagnosed at an advanced stage. Its mortality rate is also lowered substantially if people report for screening when the earliest symptoms are manifested.