by Dr. K. Kenneth Chao:
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report an increase in the number of long-term cancer survivors in the United States. As of 2007, there were more then 11.7 million survivors, compared to the reported 3 million in 1971. A continued upward trend of surviving cancer is expected in the coming years. This positive news comes as a result of many key factors:
Early Detection: Advances in cancer screening have played an influential role in increasing long-term cancer control. It is well substantiated that the earlier cancer is detected, the greater the chance of curing the disease. Cancers diagnosed early have less of a chance to spread to other parts of the body. Once cancer has spread, curing the disease becomes more of a challenge. Additionally, better understanding and identification of genetic factors help us spot those who are at a greater risk for developing certain cancers.
Advanced Treatment: Cancer therapy has become more targeted, allowing treatments to be more effective and tolerable. We are not only beating this disease, the trade-offs in morbidity and mortality associated with traditional cancer treatment have diminished greatly. Advances in radiotherapy can now deliver radiation with greater accuracy and precision while sparing more normal tissue from unnecessary exposure. Improvements in surgical procedure and recovery have decreased peri-operative complications. Systemic therapy has also become more targeted and tolerable as traditional chemotherapy is replaced or augmented with more specific molecular targeting agents. A better understanding of cancer biology has allowed doctors to select an appropriate "individualized" regimen rather than going at it in an arbitrary manner.
Healthy Lifestyle: It is now clear that having a healthy lifestyle such as incorporating a regular routine of physical activity, healthy eating (such as cutting down on high fat/ high sugar consumption), and smoking cessation decreases the risk for having cancer. With multiple studies substantiating this positive effect, more people are applying this knowledge into their life. Even if a person is diagnosed with cancer, a healthy lifestyle allows for greater tolerance towards treatment and is linked to having a better outcome in beating the cancer. Finally, maintaining a health lifestyle after a cancer treatment has been shown to dramatically decrease one's risk of having the cancer return.
We are fortunate to live in an era where receiving the frightening news of a cancer diagnosis is now less likely a death sentence and more of a tough challenge that life throws your way. Applying a healthy lifestyle and finding a trusted partnership with a doctor who can provide you with the best preventative and individualized treatment ensures you can meet that challenge.
Dr. K. Kenneth Chao is a board certified radiation oncologist with Epic Care, a group of experts in the diagnosis and comprehensive treatment of cancer and blood disorders. www.epic-care.com