The rates for nearly all forms of cancer are falling. The nation's annual "Status of Cancer" report was released on Monday and finds cancer deaths among men have dropped nearly 2.6% a year since 2002. Men are seeing declines in colorectal, lung and prostate cancer. Cancer rates have dropped 1.8% among women with breast, lung and colorectal cases on the decline.
“I think the old notion that a diagnosis of cancer is a death sentence has clearly changed,” says Dr. Jonathan Friedberg, a lymphoma cancer specialist at Rochester’s Wilmot Cancer Center.
According to the American Cancer Society, there’s been a nearly 2% decline in the number of people diagnosed with cancer and a 7% decrease in the number of deaths from the disease. The statistics are from the ACS’s 2007 Cancer Burden Profile and compare rates from 1990-1994 to 2000-2004.
There are two big factors behind the downward spiral according Rochester cancer specialists: better treatments and healthier lifestyle changes. Genetic therapies, targeted radiation and chemotherapy are attacking the cancer without hurting the rest of the body, allowing patients diagnosed with cancer to live longer.
“Hopefully this gives hope, there's strong reason to believe that new therapies that are out there will continue these trends,” says Dr. Friedberg.
Another trend is a healthier lifestyle which is slowly being adopted across the county. For example, fewer women are smoking, leading to a reduced number of lung cancer cases. Additionally, the continued emphasis on a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat is also helping reduce the number different forms of cancer.
“We now have evidence that many of our recommendations are paying off,” says Dr. Friedberg, “if you can avoid smoking, if you can eat the proper diet and so forth, these things are often don't even involve insurance.”
One of the biggest problems left in Monroe County is cancer screenings or at least, getting screened at the right time. According the American Cancer Society, nearly 50% of colon cancers in our area being diagnosed late stage, when the disease is hardest to treat, because people are not being screened early enough.
“I think that many healthy people are not used to needing to see physicians and so forth and you hit a certain age and they don't realize that's the time to intervene,” says Friedberg.