Celebrate the rise in cancer survivors

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – Not so long ago, a cancer diagnosis was equal to a death-sentence. However, early detection, better treatment options and public education have all contributed to successfully fighting the battle against cancer. In just the past 20 years, survival rates for many forms of cancer have gone up nearly 20 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A time of change

The National Cancer Institute data shows a 20 percent increase in survival for lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Of these four types of cancer, the two most life-threatening, breast cancer and prostate cancer, have seen the most improvement.

The American Cancer Society attributes a number of reasons to the improvement of cancer survival rates, including early detection, more effective treatments, increased awareness, a more proactive attitude toward overall health and preventative screenings, and more.

Women who understand the nature of breast cancer can do self-exams. Early screening tools have also improved, as the ability to interpret them. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and ultrasound have advanced and allow better detection of small tumors.

Mammograms that once created false positives and failed to detect 30 percent of the cancers, have evolved into digital mammography, also called 3D breast imaging. This test now gives a three-dimensional view of any suspicious area to help doctors make more educated decisions.

Treatment options are changing, too. The New York Times recently reported that immunotherapy research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has led to new ways to use drugs to weaken cancerous cells, thus allowing a patient’s own immune system to eliminate those cells from the body. An exciting aspect of this discovery is that this technique appears to work with numerous different types of cancer.

We are living in an exciting time for cancer treatment, and it’s time to celebrate the survivors among us!

Celebrate survival

If someone you love is a cancer survivor, he or she is among the millions worth celebrating. Take a few moments out of your busy day to be thankful for life, and make that survivor feel extra special. Here are just a few ways to start:

1. Gather friends together for a celebratory dinner party. Toast to your proud survivor and remind her that she is loved and supported by many.

2. Treat the survivor to a day of shopping, and find her a new pair of heels from Macy’s and a statement necklace.

3. Use social media to continue to spread the word about cancer awareness, and use your survivor as an example that cancer can be beat.

4. Participate in charity walks that raise money and awareness for all sorts of cancer. Find a list of scheduled events for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on the American Cancer Society’s website or visit your local new’s community events section to find one in your area.

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