(WXYZ) — Cancer death rates continue to fall in the U.S. There are now 18 million cancer survivors living in the U.S., compared to 3 million in 1971.
As a physician, telling a patient they have cancer is a difficult part of my profession. When they hear the diagnosis, they often become afraid and immediately think it’s a death sentence. So that’s why I’m excited to talk about this new report from the American Association for Cancer Research.
It says that the five-year overall survival rate increased from 49% in the mid-1970s to almost 70% from 2011 to 2017. And deaths dropped by nearly 3.5 million between 1991 and 2019.
Now, what’s behind the decline in cancer deaths?
I’m happy to say that cancer researchers have been making scientific advances that improve, extend, and save lives. There have been significant strides in treatments, diagnostic tools, and prevention strategies.
For example, the use of immunotherapies has really expanded. Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses a person's own immune system to fight cancer. There are several types but immune checkpoint inhibitors are newer drugs that help your immune system find and attack cancer cells. The first one was approved in 2011. Since then, the FDA has approved eight other immune checkpoint inhibitors for 18 types of cancer.
Also, the agency expanded the use of 10 anticancer therapeutics - medications to treat new cancer types. And they also approved two new diagnostic imaging agents.
Early diagnosis gives patients the best odds of surviving. Because if left too late, cancer can spread to other body parts. Despite these advances in cancer treatments, it’s expected that more than 600,000 Americans will die from cancer this year alone. And by 2040, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to jump to 2.3 million.
So it’s imperative that people see their doctors for routine screenings for common cancers like breast, prostate, and colon cancer. Also, people need to know that roughly 40% of cancer cases are attributable to preventable risk factors. So if you smoke, please quit.
Data shows declines in smoking combined with improvements in catching and treating cancer early are making an impact. It’s also important for people to eat healthily, exercise regularly, drink in moderation, and maintain a healthy weight.
There’s no sure way to avoid cancer, but you can reduce your risk by living a healthy active lifestyle.
On the next Dr. Nandi Show, can love and romance help you live longer? Join Dr. Nandi, M.D. as he explores the connection between emotional, mental and physical health. He speaks with a husband and wife who have been married for almost 60 years to learn their secrets to longevity. Plus, relationship experts explain the importance of communication, staying connected socially as you age, keeping the passion alive after losing a partner, and understanding how romance and love impact health. Tune in this Sunday, September 25th at 1 pm.