(WXYZ) — Cancer deaths in the U.S. continue to fall. There are now 18 million people living with cancer in the US, up from 3 million in 1971.
As a doctor, telling a patient that they have cancer is a difficult part of my profession. When they hear the diagnosis, they are often afraid and immediately think that it is a death sentence. That’s why I’m excited to share this new report from the American Association for Cancer Research.
It says the overall five-year survival rate increased from 49% in the mid-1970s to nearly 70% from 2011 to 2017. And the death rate decreased by almost 3.5 million between 1991 and 2019.
What is behind the decline in cancer deaths?
I am happy to say that cancer researchers are making scientific advances that improve, extend and save lives. Significant advances have been made in treatment, diagnostic tools, and prevention strategies.
For example, the use of immunotherapy 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 the immune system find and attack cancer cells. The first 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 antitumor therapeutics – drugs for the treatment of new types of cancer. And they also approved two new diagnostic imaging tools.
Early diagnosis gives patients the best chance of survival. Because if left too late, cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Despite these advances in cancer treatment, more than 600,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer this year alone. And by 2040, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 2.3 million.
Therefore, it is very important that people see their doctors for routine screenings for common cancers such as breast, prostate and colon cancer. Additionally, people should be aware that approximately 40% of cancers are attributable to preventable risk factors. So if you smoke, please quit.
Evidence shows that smoking reduction combined with improved cancer detection and early treatment is having an impact. It is also important for people to eat healthy, exercise regularly, drink in moderation and maintain a healthy weight.
There is no sure way to avoid cancer, but you can reduce your risk by living a healthy, active lifestyle.
Can love and romance help you live longer in Dr. Nandi’s next show? Join Nandi MD as she explores the connection between emotional, mental and physical health. He talks to a couple who have been married for almost 60 years to find out their secrets to longevity. Plus, relationship experts explain the importance of communication, staying socially connected as you age, maintaining passion after losing a partner, and understanding how romance and love affect health. Watch this Sunday, September 25 at 1 p.m.