Today is LiveStrong Day!

October 2, 2009 at 6:49 pm Leave a comment

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Armstrong: Put cancer at top of global agenda

Friday, October 02, 2009

Today is LIVESTRONG Day, a global day of action to raise awareness in our communities about the fight against cancer.

Today is also the 13th anniversary of my own cancer diagnosis. Like most 25-year-olds, I was fearless, ready to conquer the world and, because I was in the midst of changing employers, without health insurance. I was lucky. One of my sponsors, Oakley, stood up for me and threatened to take all of their business elsewhere if their insurance carrier refused to cover me. Without their help, I might not be alive today. Or I might be completely broke, still trying to dig my way out of a massive pile of medical bills.

That kind of luck shouldn’t have anything to do with whether the 12 million people around the world who will be diagnosed with cancer this year go broke trying to get the treatment they need to survive.

Cancer is projected to become the world’s leading cause of death next year. More than 28 million people around the world are living with cancer today and, without greater progress in detection, prevention and treatment, that number could triple by 2030.

If the cancer epidemic continues to grow as predicted, it will have a devastating effect on world economies. A new Economist Intelligence Unit study commissioned by the Lance Armstrong Foundation pegs the global economic impact of the disease at more than $300 billion in 2009 alone. In coming years, developing nations will be forced to spend increasing amounts of money on treatment and on public assistance to patients. In the U.S. and Western Europe, where aging populations are already straining public health costs, the rise in cancer means an ever greater percentage of national budgets will be devoted to healthcare.

That’s the big picture. But the disease also has a devastating personal economic impact. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cancer survivors in the U.S. and Europe were 37 percent more likely to be unemployed than those who have not been afflicted by the disease. This is a health and economic crisis on par with the worldwide recession.

The global economic downturn that began in 2007 is only now showing signs of easing. Governments have made history-setting stimulus efforts to stabilize their financial systems. It would be easy to simply say, “Sorry … we have to wait to fight cancer.”

The problem is, cancer won’t wait. The threat grows minute by minute. Making the tough decision now to combat that threat will pay dividends in the decades to come by driving down the costs of treatment and public assistance.

Put plainly, the impact of diseases like cancer won’t subside with the recovery of global markets.

Knowing that every country is confronting the growing burden of cancer and seeking answers, the sixth annual LIVESTRONG Day for the first time is being marked globally. So at more than 1,000 events around the world today, people are taking much-needed action to put cancer at the top of the global agenda and make it impossible to ignore.

And to this day, my family and I remain on Oakley’s insurance plan. We are the lucky ones. We can no longer allow luck to determine the fate of people with cancer.

Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, is a cancer survivor and founder of the LIVESTRONG movement whose goal is to support survivors throughout the world and make cancer a global priority.

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Entry filed under: Health Care.

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