Cancer Survival Rates Through The Years in the US

cancer survival rates

Cancer has been lurking around even before the parents of millennial kids were born. Way back in the 1930s, there was a significant increase in people diagnosed with lung cancer. This type of cancer was primarily caused by smoking making lung cancer deadliest in the US. Back then, the five-year survival rate was only around 12%.

For all types of cancers combined, the five-year survival rate fell at around 49%. At the lower end of the scale, 3% of those patients having liver or pancreatic cancer lived all the way to the ’80s. On the upper end, around 92% who tested positive for thyroid cancer lived long enough to see a winner in the presidential race. All of these figures only show that there was a significant improvement in the past when only one in four cancer patients would have a chance to live a further five years.

Cancer: its reality in the past

These improvements entailed localized diagnoses and increased chemotherapy sessions. In the past, not everyone was aware of cancer and the burden it brings. Some thought that there really was no possible cure or treatment to alleviate the symptoms. Though due to ongoing clinical trials and research, there were improvements and the life of a cancer patient was extended significantly.

Since the 1970s, lung cancer in men predominated. As years went by, the numbers of male patients diagnosed with lung cancer rose dramatically. The link between tobacco use and cancer was intrinsic but with a 20 to 30 year delay. That is why during the early to mid 1960’s, a lot of people were smoking. The end result was that there was a high lung cancer death rate during the 90’s.

Over the years, death rates due to different diseases have declined but lung cancer remains to be the deadliest form in America. This is approximately 26% of all deaths which are cancer-related. On top of that, it is the most invasive type of cancer that men and women alike are susceptible to. Since cancer has no known cause, each individual has an equal chance in acquiring the disease.

It’s not all about lung cancer

Aside from lung cancer, prostate cancer has followed a similar trend in which its five year survival rate increased from 68% to greater than 99% in 1975 to 1977. This is due to the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test which detects prostate cancer even if void of symptoms. Due to its positivity, this has led to over diagnose most men who have been treated for slow-growing prostate cancer. This was constantly done even if there was no threat. Because of this, a great number of cases inflated the survival rates.

Since then, the PSA test was no longer used as the basis for prostate cancer. Men were not recommended to undergo the test which eventually lowered the incidence rates. Even though fewer tests were performed, prostate cancer remained and ranked as the third highest, cancer related cause of death among men of all ages.

With these results, it does not mean that only men can have a major disease that causes death. Women, on the other hand, have breast cancer to face. This account for nearly one-third of new cases and improved detection techniques. Treatment options also improved significantly by increasing the five year survival rate from 75% to 91%, in the years of 1975 to 1977.

The Survival Rate of Cancer

For an overall outlook, all cancers today have a five year survival rate of around 67%. If we applied the 1975 to 1977 survival rate to 1.66 million people clinically diagnosed with cancer in the year 2013, there would be 300,000 fewer patients alive at present.

Cancer, as with any other major disease in this lifetime, is hard to predict. It has an unknown cause or treatment that researchers are still unraveling, but the increasing number of diagnosed cases continues to do so annually. Recently in a 2018 research, figures can go up as high as 1.735 million.

Why the increase in such cases? There are a multitude of reasons but one of the most common is the age of the population rising. Age is an important risk factor for cancer in which by the year 2060, almost on quarter of the entire population is projected to reach the age of 65 or above, as compared to the 15% in the year 2014. As this situation rises, cancer cases will eventually increase as well.

What causes an increase in Cancer?

Lifestyle contributes a lot to increasing cancer cases in any part of the world. While many people are already aware that cutting down tobacco use had a significant effect on reversing the increase of lung cancer, obesity now poses a big problem in society.

According to medical experts, smoking is riskier on an individual level, but the prominence of obesity may move to the number one spot in the list of a preventable cause of cancer list all over the world. This unhealthy lifestyle which entails a poor diet, excess weight and sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise or physical activity) have long been linked with the most common cancers such as colon, breast and prostate cancers.

While this predicted increase in incidence rates prove that cancer will remain a huge healthcare issue in the world, people are more aware of the significance of early detection tests. Readily available screening methods has improved the survival rates through the years.

Of course, there is still room for improvement for low income and ethnic minority groups. In conjunction with improving access to early detection, developing new techniques is one of the most researched area in the academe. In the United Kingdom, experts are working a universal blood test that could detect cancer. A simple and inexpensive test can have a remarkable effect in the cancer survival rates in the coming years. This could be a great tool in the United States soon because it is estimated that 20.3 million people with a history of cancer will be there in 2026.

The World Cancer Day theme

#WeCanICan is a powerful theme that creates an impact not only to an individual level, but to a collective whole in fighting against cancer. It encourages everybody to help out by spreading valuable information and educating people about the risks of an unhealthy lifestyle. The theme also sends a great message to schools and workplaces by supporting healthy lifestyles, as well as knocking on the government to provide resources to cancer prevention and treatment. Asking for an easy access to such services should also be of high importance to decrease cancer cases in all parts of the world.

What we can do

Since cancer is a threat to society, anyone can acquire it if you don’t do anything. Each individual can actually contribute by making major changes in their lifestyle, one step at a time. Eating healthy and organic food helps a lot in avoiding cancer. Superfoods, which are rich in free radicals, help fight off cancer. Involving yourself in sports also contributes to a healthy lifestyle. When in physical activity, the body becomes strong and the immune system is enhanced. As the body builds up its defense, infections will be at bay, thus lessening the chance to develop cancer.

Other activities that help decrease the risk of having cancer is being safe under the sun. Skin cancer is very predominant in the world and can easily be avoided if you follow proper sun protection techniques. Applying sunblock and other topical creams help block harmful UV rays that cause skin problems.

How CareClinic helps Manage Cancer

Prevention will always be better than cure. Nothing can perfectly protect oneself from cancer so being aware of the dreaded disease is important. Downloading CareClinic to your smartphone is essential. This app helps enlighten different individuals about the pathophysiology of cancer by reading articles and journals, as well as watching informative videos.

Being aware of the different signs and symptoms of cancer is also one helpful step. If you suspect that you might have these symptoms, putting them in CareClinic will help you monitor such symptoms well. Acting accordingly can also help in detecting cancer as early as possible. Early detection leads to high chances of survival so having this app also makes you keep a health diary that you may print out and share with your specialist.

World Cancer Day had some goals and one of which is to primarily educate each and every one about the warning signs and how to act once these are present. Being knowledgeable about any disease is important to be able to prevent it. That’s why schools, institutions and other facilities must continue to increase cancer awareness so that people can, in little ways, make that change.

Everybody can change their ways towards a better and healthier quality of life. It only takes a matter of effort, hard work and desire to live healthily. In the long run, all of these will help society minimize cancer cases. This, in turn, eases the health care system and save more lives which do not focus solely on cancer, not only in the United States, but to the rest of the world.

Chloe M.

Chloe M (RN, BSc) holds a degree in Biology and is a practicing Registered Nurse. She has worked as a clinical and field researcher for various NGO organizations and social enterprises. She likes to share her experience as a nurse to provide insights on managing health and practicing preventative medicine.
Chloe M.