The dreaded ‘c’ word. Still life changing to hear. The emphasis today is on life.
“It used to be a death sentence for many people. Now we look at advanced stage cancer for many patients as a chronic disease like diabetes, arthritis – it can flair up from time to time and you have to do something to knock it back but ultimately you keep the person going,” says Dr. Constantine Mantz, radiation oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
From 2001 through 2010, death rates for all cancers combined dropped nearly 2% in the four major cancers: lung, colorectal, breast and prostate - it represents over two- thirds of the decline.
Researchers attributed the overall drop to the decrease in cigarette smoking. Since lung cancer accounts for more than one in four cancer deaths, these declines are fueling the overall reduction in cancer deaths.
“There’s no question. I mean our number one goal is prevention so obviously if we keep people from smoking or limit smoking or have smoking cessation, that’s the primary goal. Beyond that obviously we would like to catch the lung cancers at the earliest stages as possible,” says Dr. Keith Miller, radiation oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Advances in science have also made an impact, from high tech screening and radiation delivery to targeted therapies. A new drug for late stage prostate cancer, called Xofigo was FDA approved last year.
“This is intended for patients who have an advanced form of prostate cancer that’s not curable but one which there is an opportunity to control the cancer for a long time. Often for years and allow the man not just some longevity, but also to go about his life,” says Dr. Mantz.
A caveat to the findings, people who had multiple, or pre-existing medical conditions did poorer overall, showing that general good health made a huge difference in surviving cancer.