Cancer: Not a Death Sentence

Over the past 40 years survival rates for cancer have dramatically increased

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Cancer can seem like a death sentence, but more and more people are beating the disease.

The number of cancer survivors has grown significantly over the last 40 years. As a result of improvements in early detection, better diagnostic methods, more effective treatments, and better follow-up after treatment, a cancer diagnosis does not necessarily mean that death is near.

In 1971, there were 3 million cancer survivors in the United States. By 2001, this number grew to 9.8 million survivors, according to a new CDC report. There were 11.7 million cancer survivors in 2007.

A cancer survivor is defined as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and still living after a certain amount of time, usually from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his or her life. Cancer survival is often measured as a five year survival rate.

The most common cancers among survivors were breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. Nearly 65 percent of cancer survivors had lived for more than 5 years after their diagnosis.

dailyRx Insight: Even though diagnostic tests and treatments have improved over the years, it is still important to avoid risks of cancer, such as smoking, inactivity, unhealthy foods, and alcohol.

Using data from nine Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) programs, researchers from the National Cancer Institute and the CDC updated the current cancer survival statistics. In addition to finding overall increases in cancer survival rates, the researchers found that nearly 60 percent of cancer survivors were 65 years of age and older. Over 67 percent of people who had lived with cancer for more than 15 years were women.

(FACTOID HERE)

The report appears online in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Last Updated:
March 11, 2011