Cancer Patients Live On

Invasive cancer survival rates increased

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Cancer is a scary diagnosis, but there’s some really good news out there these days — more people are surviving.

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that most people with invasive cancer survived at least five years from the time they were diagnosed. The most common cancer sites were cancers of the prostate, female breast, lung and bronchus, and colon and rectum.

Dr. Jane Henley, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and lead author of this study, said in a press release, “We are pleased to include cancer survivor data in this report for the first time. We will review these data annually to track our progress.”

The CDC maintains an ongoing data collection system called the National Program of Cancer Registries. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, his or her medical information is entered into a cancer registry.

Dr. Henley and colleagues reviewed the most recent data on cases of invasive cancers reported through the registries in 2011.

Invasive cancer is defined as cancer that has spread (or metastasized) from the point at which it originally began. These researchers reviewed data on more than 1.5 million people from all states except Nevada.

Dr. Henley and team found that cancer rates were higher for men than for women. However, men and women had similar survival rates, with 65 percent of both sexes surviving to five years or more past diagnosis.

Altogether, 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with cancer survived five years or more.

The five-year survival rate for invasive lung cancer was the lowest, at 18 percent. Survival rates were much better for other common invasive cancers, however.

Sixty-three percent of colorectal cancer patients survived five years or more. The survival rates for breast cancer and prostate cancer were 88 percent and 97 percent, respectively.

Younger people were more likely to survive for at least five years, according to the CDC. The survival rate for people diagnosed with cancer before age 45 was 81 percent.

Improved survival rates are likely related to advances in cancer detection at an early stage and to improved treatment methods, according to Dr. Henley and team. The CDC’s data is used by individual states to help develop cancer prevention and treatment programs.

Although some factors related to developing cancer are not under the patient's control, the American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that patients can decrease risk in other ways.

For instance, genetic background and family history can increase the risk of some kinds of cancer. Smoking increases the risk of not only cancer but heart disease. Avoiding tobacco products is one way to decrease cancer risk, especially for lung cancer.

Obesity, high red meat intake and too much alcohol can all add to cancer risk.

However, exercise seems to decrease cancer risks, and regular aspirin use may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor before starting regular aspirin or any other medication. Not all strategies are right for all people.

The CDC report was published in the March 13 Morbidity and Weekly Report.

This study did not receive outside funding. None of the authors disclosed a conflict of interest.

Review Date: 
March 13, 2015
Last Updated:
March 17, 2015