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Cancer can affect anyone. But cancer does not affect everyone equally.


Exercise is good for you! That’s why the employees of Janssen Switzerland are running through Zug on February 2, 2023. But that’s not the only reason for the run. They want to draw attention to World Cancer Day, which takes place on February 4th every year. Its motto is “Close the care gap“, which roughly translated means “Close the care gap”. But what does that mean?

Imagine you are taking part in a race. But you have a heavy backpack and the other participants are allowed to start earlier than you. That’s unfair. In the case of cancer, however, this is the reality: Some can start treatment earlier because their cancer was detected very early on, while others are also carrying around a “heavy backpack” of previous illnesses and other poor preconditions.

Unfair Conditions

For people in the developing world, a cancer diagnosis can be a death sentence, while for people in Europe, many types of cancer can be detected early and treated well. This is just one example of how someone’s background affects how their life will continue after a cancer diagnosis. There are many more examples: In developed countries, four out of five children survive cancer, while in developing countries only one out of five survives1. Even in rich countries like the US, there is a strong urban-rural divide: While the risk of developing cancer is greater in the city, the risk of dying from cancer is greater in rural areas2. This is because cancer patients in rural areas have a longer journey to the hospital, fewer treatment options and fewer opportunities to participate in a cancer study with new treatment options3. Skin color also plays a role: Although black women actually have a slightly reduced risk of developing breast cancer, their risk of dying from breast cancer is more than 40% higher than that of white women4. And trans and non-binary people are also often overlooked in cancer screenings because they don’t fit into the established gender categories and thus into the screening programs5.

Equal opportunities for everyone

Now, Switzerland is a very rich country, and its healthcare system is generally very good. In a recently published survey of cancer patients from French-speaking Switzerland, the vast majority rated their experience in hospitals positively6. Discussions with the nursing staff and inpatient care in general were rated particularly well. On the other hand, home care and communication with healthcare professionals did not fare as well. In other words, even in Switzerland, there is room for improvement.

At Janssen Switzerland, we are committed to ensuring that a cancer diagnosis is no longer a cause of anxiety for anyone. We want to give all those affected back their dreams and independence, no matter who they are, where they come from or what color their skin is. Every day, we work toward the goal of cancer no longer being a death sentence, but, instead, a disease that can be fought with a prospect of success.

1) Lam CG, Howard SC, Bouffet E, Pritchard-Jones K. Science and health for all children with cancer. Science. 2019 Mar 15;363(6432):1182-1186. doi: 10.1126/science.aaw4892. PMID: 30872518.

2) Henley SJ, Anderson RN, Thomas CC, Massetti GM, Peaker B, Richardson LC. Invasive Cancer Incidence, 2004-2013, and Deaths, 2006-2015, in Nonmetropolitan and Metropolitan Counties - United States. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2017 Jul 7;66(14):1-13. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.ss6614a1. PMID: 28683054; PMCID: PMC5879727.

3) Levit LA, Byatt L, Lyss AP, Paskett ED, Levit K, Kirkwood K, Schenkel C, Schilsky RL. Closing the Rural Cancer Care Gap: Three Institutional Approaches. JCO Oncol Pract. 2020 Jul;16(7):422-430. doi: 10.1200/OP.20.00174. Epub 2020 Jun 23. PMID: 32574128.

4) Siegel RL, Miller KD, Fuchs HE, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2022. CA Cancer J Clin. 2022 Jan;72(1):7-33. doi: 10.3322/caac.21708. Epub 2022 Jan 12. PMID: 35020204.

5) Sterling J, Garcia MM. Cancer screening in the transgender population: a review of current guidelines, best practices, and a proposed care model. Transl Androl Urol. 2020 Dec;9(6):2771-2785. doi: 10.21037/tau-20-954. PMID: 33457249; PMCID: PMC7807311.

6) Arditi C, Eicher M, Colomer-Lahiguera S, Bienvenu C, Anchisi S, Betticher D, Dietrich PY, Duchosal M, Peters S, Peytremann-Bridevaux I. Results of a multicentre cross-sectional survey. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2022 Nov;31(6):e13705. doi: 10.1111/ecc.13705. Epub 2022 Sep 21. PMID: 36130722.

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