Cancer :: Cancer survival rates improving with better treatment, early diagnosis

No doubt, a cancer diagnosis is frightening. But consider this: the number of cancer survivors continues to grow, thanks to improved treatments, new treatments and earlier diagnosis.

More than 10 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive in January 2002, the most recent survivor figures available. Here’s another statistic: one in every six people over age 65 has survived cancer.

The November issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers some of the changes in the cancer survival landscape:

Overall cancer survivor rates: For cancers diagnosed from 1974 to 1976, the five-year survival rate was 50 percent. Between 1995 and 2001, the latest five-year survival rate data, the survival rate was 65 percent.

Breast cancer: Between 1990 and 2004, breast cancer deaths declined 2.3 percent each year. In the 1950s, the five-year survival rate for cancer that hadn’t spread was 80 percent. Now that rate is at 98 percent.

Prostate cancer: Five-year survival rates have improved in the last 20 years from 67 percent to nearly 100 percent for all stages of prostate cancer combined.

Colorectal cancer: Over the past 20 years, mortality rates have been declining an average of 1.8 percent a year for both men and women. Early detection of colorectal cancer is associated with a five-year survival rate of 90 percent. Unfortunately, only about one-third of colorectal cancers are diagnosed before the cancer has spread. Despite the proven benefits of screening after age 50, some people forgo screening.

Lung cancer: This is still the most common cancer-related cause of death in both men and women. Surgical and postoperative therapies have improved one-year survival rates from 37 percent in 1975 to 42 percent between 1999 and 2001. Lung cancer remains challenging to treat.

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