Cancer Survival Rates Up

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February 9, 2006
The annual number of US cancer deaths has fallen for the first time in more than 70 years. Some of the reasons: smoking is on the decline, early diagnosis and better treatment.

Cheryl Howard is a 7-year breast cancer survivor. She now volunteers at the American Cancer Society helping others.

“We are fortunate to live in a medical community, we have access to a lot,” Howard said.

And for the first time in 70 years, annual cancer deaths have fallen in the United States.

“You just never give up. Just seeing this is instrumental for all of us and that’s why I’m considering it a victory,” Howard said.

The National Center for Health Statistics states there were 557,271 deaths in 2002. That number dropped to 556,902 in 2003.

MCG Cancer Specialist Dr. Thomas Samuel says we are on the right road to recovery.

“If we can make that 400 next year, 500 the next year and keep going I think we are headed in the right direction,” Dr. Samuel said.

Dr. Samuel attributes the decline in cancer deaths to three major factors.

“Catching them earlier and being able to treat them better is the second thing. And the third thing is people are making lifestyle modifications,” Samuel said.

Another key factor is more people have stopped smoking.

“I think society as a whole, government, businesses, corporate America, everyone is making an effort to deal with this epidemic of cancer by dealing with the issue of smoking,” Samuel said.

And declines in smoking and early detection may be the key to beating cancer.

“Learn about warning signs, get your checkups. I myself being a breast cancer survivor I get my mammograms, self breast exams,” Howard said.

The four most common cancers, lung, breast, prostate and colorectal, account for 51 percent of all US cancer deaths. Experts say early detection, better treatment, and declines in smoking are reasons for the decline.