Around 60 percent of Israelis diagnosed with and treated for cancer survive for at least five years - one of the highest rates in the world. But Israel Cancer Association director-general Miri Ziv said on Tuesday that with existing medical know-how and with Israelis' adoption of healthful lifestyles including not smoking and preventive measures, the death rate from cancer could be halved.
The ICA unveiled this information less than a week before its annual Knock on the Door fundraising campaign, in which schoolchildren and other volunteers will visit homes to solicit contributions for the voluntary organization's wide range of activities, which are not funded by the government. They include screening, treatment, information campaigns, social and emotional support for patients and research.
The fund-raising campaign will be held on Monday.
President Shimon Peres held a pre-launch event at Beit Hanassi on Tuesday evening in which he made his own donation to the campaign. He said that 200,000 Israelis had been diagnosed with cancer and had either recovered or were undergoing treatment. More than 300 of the newest cases were children under the age of 14, he said. He encouraged all Israelis to donate what they could afford.
David Franklin, chairman of the board for the Sugat company and this year's campaign chairman, said that he personally knew the bitter toll of cancer, as his son Yoni had died of it before he reached the age of 30.
The Knock on the Door campaign "is vital to all of us," added Franklin, both those who are sick and those who are well. "It is ours; it belongs to all of the people of Israel. It's closer to home than one can imagine."
Ziv said that 12.9 million new cases of cancer had been diagnosed around the world so far in 2009 and that the annual cost of treating the disease was around $290 billion. The world cost of cancer research today totals $19b.
According to predictions made in a joint study by Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the World Health Organization, the number of new cases will rise to 16.8 million in 2020 and to 27 million in two decades if the present trends continue. In 2030, 17 million cancer patients will die.
In Israel, there are now 27,000 new cases a year, with treatment costing $715 million. Survival rates reach 61.4% among Jewish men, 67.3% among Jewish women, 50.7% among Arab men (largely because they have high smoking and lung cancer rates, and this type of tumor is very deadly) and 64.9% of Arab women. The number of cases here will rise to 35,000 a year in 2020 at the current rate.
The incidence of cancer rises as people age, but at any age, smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity, a junk-food diet and high consumption of alcohol increase the risk.
ICA chairman Prof. Eliezer Robinson said that Rambam Medical Center researchers had examined the feelings of patients recovering from cancer a year after their final treatment, with a sample of 104 survivors. Half of them said they felt good to excellent, while a fifth reported that they were weak or below average in functioning.
Fifty-five percent said they suffered due to changes in their looks; the same percentage said they had fertility problems or other health problems as a result of treatment. In addition, 77% are married, and nearly 90% have children. Three-quarters earn up to NIS 10,000 a month. Seven percent blamed cancer for their divorce or separation from their partners.
Two-thirds testified that as a result of their illness, they had initiated chats with people and encouraged them to go for screening and be aware of cancer symptoms. The same number of people said they were "not the same person" they had been before they became ill. More than half said the emotional and practical struggles with the disease were sometimes more difficult than the medical treatment; 91% percent said they went to all their scheduled examinations (compared to only 82% in the US).
While two-thirds of US cancer patients used the Internet for information, only 31% of Israelis said they did. Half of the Israelis and only a quarter of the Americans were fearful that the disease would return.
Prof. Gad Rennert, head of the national program for early detection of breast cancer, said that more than 370,000 Israeli women (mostly aged 50 to 74) had undergone mammograms last year, 270,000 of them for screening. Seventy-two percent of women in this age group were screened, a significantly higher figure than in most European countries. In 2007, 4,366 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed, including over 1,000 found during screening of seemingly healthy women.
More information about cancer can be obtained by calling the ICA's free Telemeida number, 1-800-599-995.