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HEALTH REPORT - Rise in Number of Cancer Survivors - 2004-07-06

Broadcast: July 7, 2004

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease. In the past, it was often considered a death sentence. But many patients now live longer because of improvements in discovery and treatment.

Researchers say death rates in the United States from all cancers combined have fallen for thirty years. Survival rates have increased for most of the top fifteen cancers in both men and women, and for cancers in children.

The National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the number of cancer survivors. A cancer survivor is defined as anyone has been found to have cancer. This would include current patients.

The study covered the period from nineteen-seventy-one to two-thousand-one. The researchers found there are three times as many cancer survivors today as there were thirty years ago. In nineteen-seventy-one, the United States had about three-million cancer survivors. Today there are about ten-million.

The study also found that sixty-four percent of adults with cancer can expect to still be alive in five years. Thirty years ago, the five-year survival rate was fifty percent. The government wants to increase the five-year survival rate to seventy-percent by two-thousand-ten.

Breast cancer survivors are the largest group of survivors, at twenty-two percent. That group is followed by survivors of prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.

The risk of cancer increases with age. The report says the majority of survivors are sixty-five years and older.

But it says medical improvements have also helped children with cancer live much longer. Researchers say eighty percent of children with cancer will survive at least five years after the discovery. About seventy-five percent will survive at least ten years.

In the nineteen-seventies, the five-year survival rate for children was about fifty percent. In the nineteen-sixties, most children did not survive cancer.Researchers say they expect more improvements in cancer treatment in the future. In fact, they say traditional cancer-prevention programs are not enough anymore. They say public health programs should also aim to support the growing numbers of cancer survivors and their families.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk.