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New technology and practices improve cancer survivor rates

Posted at 9:02 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 16:16:04-05

MISSOULA — Six cancer experts came together in 1999 and drafted a charter that outlined a vision for addressing the impact of cancer on the world.

Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of World Cancer Day -- and with medical advancements happening constantly, radiation oncologist Dr. Michelle Proper said that more often than not, cancer outcomes are positive.

Dr. Proper explained some of the new practices medical professionals have seen in recent years. Immunotherapy, for example, stimulates the immune system to help the body fight cancer.

Additionally, surgeries have become less invasive with less side effects, and improved technology has led to more focused radiation.

As this new technology continues to roll out, cancer patients become cancer survivors every day. In fact, in the last 25 years, the cancer death rate has declined by 27%.

While part of World Cancer Day is celebrating survivors and medical progress, the other part is recognizing where we’re falling behind.

“In the next 10 to 20 years, obesity is predicted to overtake smoking as the number one risk factor for cancer,” said Dr. Proper.

Between obesity and HPV-related cancers where there’s a vaccine available, doctors think that about 140,000 cases of cancer could be avoided every year.

When it comes to avoiding a deadly disease like cancer, basic lifestyle improvements can go a long way. Avoiding tobacco and alcohol, exercising, and maintaining a healthy body weight are key.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Dr. Proper stressed the importance of talking to your medical provider about getting a cancer screening.

“We’re trying to get patients to be screened so we can find cancers sooner when they may not have symptoms and they’re more highly curable.”

In the coming year, organizers of World Cancer Day hope to reduce the number of unnecessary cancer deaths and achieve equal access to cancer care for everyone.