Manual on the prevention and control of common cancers
WHO Regional Publications, Western Pacific Series, No. 20.
Manila, Philippines: World Health Organization, Regional Office for the Western Pacific; 1998, 318 pp.
ISBN 92 9061 118 9



Worldwide over the next 25 years, there are expected to be some 300 million new cases of cancer, with 200 million deaths from the disease. Almost two-thirds of those cases will be in developing countries. Nevertheless, a third of all cancer cases are preventable, another one-third are potentially curable if diagnosed early enough, and appropriate palliative care could substantially reduce the suffering of the remaining one-third of cancer patients.

This new book, Manual on the Prevention and Control of Common Cancers, is intended to help reduce the tragic toll from cancer. Published by the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Regional (WPR) Office, the guide focuses much on the situation in the vast, diverse area stretching from Mongolia and China to Australia, New Zealand, and numerous other Pacific islands. In spite of its geographic concentration, the text contains a wealth of information that is applicable to other regions of the world. The book was developed for primary health care workers, general practitioners and nurses in district health units and community health centers, and public health educators. The book is intended to supplement another WHO text, National Cancer Control Programmes: Policies and Managerial Guidelines, which is targeted more toward policy makers developing broad, countrywide efforts.

The new WPR book is divided into two main sections. The first contains seven chapters that provide an overview of cancer prevention and control. The first chapter describes cancer in the WPR. It is followed by chapters on cancer surveillance and on national cancer control programs. The next four chapters deal with risk factors or control activities common to many cancers, including tobacco and smoking; diet, nutrition, and the prevention of chronic diseases; health education and health promotion; and cancer pain relief and palliative care. This introductory section provides an overall context for each of these topics, as well as specific steps that health care professionals working at the individual-patient and community level can take. The chapter on diet and nutrition, for example, covers changes in diet that have come with growing economic affluence, evidence for the growth in cancers associated with those new eating habits, principles for national efforts on diet-related health problems, and measures that local health workers can take to promote better nutrition.

The second section of the book presents recommended control measures for specific common cancers: oral, nasopharyngeal, esophageal, stomach, colon and rectal, liver, lung, skin, breast, and cervical. For each of these, the text covers magnitude, cause, early-detection methods, possible prevention measures, treatment, and health-education steps that local health workers can take. As in the first section of the book, each of the chapters on specific cancers has a list of references and suggested readings to explore the subjects more in depth.

The book includes a glossary of terms and also a set of appendices, mainly a listing of the clinical stages of the various cancers.

Throughout, the text presents the information using an easy-to-understand vocabulary and a well-organized, systematic progression of concepts. The book does an admirable job of giving community-level health workers a better overall understanding of cancer prevention and control principles and the concrete steps they can take to implement those concepts with specific cancers.

Organización Panamericana de la Salud Washington - Washington - United States