Cancer death rates in U.S. seeing steady drop

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — February 4th is World Cancer Day and fewer people are dying from cancer now than they were almost 30 years ago. That’s according to a recent report by the American Cancer Society.

“It’s true revolution that’s going on in our understanding of cancer,” said Dr. Stephen Edge, vice president for healthcare outcomes and policy at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

A revolution, happening within cancer research across the country and right here in Buffalo. It’s something Dr. Stephen Edge thought he’d never see.

“What’s happened in the last 10 years in lung cancer and melanoma, most of thought we’d never see in our lifetime,” said Dr. Edge.

Dr. Edge says the conversations surrounding cancer have evolved and so have the treatments.

“A lot of the people who got chemotherapy 15 years ago, just would not get chemotherapy for the same cancers now,” said Dr. Edge.

He says that’s also thanks to early detection.

“One of the big advances in the last 5 or 10 years is been the understanding that we can actually screen people who are at high risk of getting lung cancers and that primarily means smokers or ex smokers,” said Dr. Edge.

Dr. Edge says a CT scan for people with a long history of smoking can help detect lung cancer early and the earlier the better.

“I’m taking care of a woman right now who had a low dose CT scan and was found to have a lung cancer. She was also was found to have something else that is probably going to be proved to be breast cancer all because she this low dose CT scanning and she’s likely to be cured of both those cancers because of that,” said Dr. Edge.

He says it’s important for people to talk to their doctors about getting screened, but most people aren’t always willing to get checked.

“There are people who are going to die in the next few years because they did not get a low dose CT scan,” said Dr. Edge.

According to a report by the American Cancer Society released this year, fewer people are dying from cancer. The death rate is down almost 30% than it was 26 years ago.

The 4 most common cancer types to see the biggest long term drops include: lung, breast, prostate and colon. The American Cancer Society found lung and skin cancer deaths saw the sharpest one year drop.

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the country’s top research cancer centers, offers an immunology program to help treat cancer.

“The real exciting advances in treatment are in harnessing the body’s immune system to identify and attack cancers either in conjunction with other drugs or individually. The side effects are, you know, I’ve seen so many people who’ve gone through it but most of them get through it they still find a way to put a smile on their face,” said Dr. Edge.

That’s why Dr. Edge says education is key. He says while the numbers show some promise, the fight against cancer isn’t just up to researchers or doctors, but people.

“Some of the advance that could’ve been made has been blunted, has been reduced because of other factors. Obesity has turned out to be a major factor in people getting cancer and not doing well with cancer,” said Dr. Edge.

He believes the changes we’re already seeing give hope and by supporting cancer research in Buffalo and beyond, more lives can and will be saved.

“Not every one of those researchers is going to have a eureka moment that they solve things but one of them’s gonna,” said Dr. Edge.

The American Cancer Society estimates 16. 9 million people with a history of cancer are living today. However , 1.8 millions new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2020.

Congressman Brian Higgins is calling for more money on a national level for cancer research. He says more than $6 billion will be given to the National Cancer Institute this year.

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