According to a recent report, in 16 years, cancer is expected to become the leading cause of death in our country. In our Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold, we discussed the increase and reviewed what the medical community recommends for prevention.
Meghan Kulig: What is the reason for this increase?
Dr. Arnold: People are living longer and our country's population is getting older as a whole. By 2030, the number of new cancer cases is expected to increase by 45 percent.
Meghan Kulig: How are the chances for survival changing after a cancer diagnosis?
Dr. Arnold: With new technologies to diagnose and treat cancer, people are living longer. In 2013 alone, the FDA approved 13 new cancer treatment drugs and biologics. In the 1970's only about half of patients lived for 5 years after a cancer diagnosis. Now about two-thirds are living beyond 5 years. Currently, there are about 13.7 million cancer survivors.
Meghan Kulig: We know many types of cancer can't be prevented, but what are some lifestyle choices we can make to lower the risk?
Dr. Arnold: There was a recent report that links being overweight to developing ovarian cancer. Other cancers have also been linked to obesity, for example cancers of the colon, esophagus, uterus, kidney, gallbladder, pancreatic, and post-menopausal breast cancer. It's never too late to quit smoking. Avoiding sun exposure or wearing sunscreen is recommended. Discuss with your healthcare provider when you should get cancer screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies.
Meghan Kulig: Are there vaccines that can help lower cancer risk?
Dr. Arnold: Yes. The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for both girls and boys as preteens. Also the hepatitis B vaccine is now routinely given to children, but can also be given to adults who have not been immunized. This is recommended since having hepatitis can increase your risk for liver cancer.
Meghan Kulig: What advice would you have for anyone newly diagnosed with cancer?
Dr. Arnold: I think it is important to select physicians that you feel comfortable with. It's also important to use reliable sources to learn about what type of cancer you have and what stage your cancer is, meaning how advanced it is. Different kinds of cancer behave differently and your stage influences what kind of treatment is best. There is a lot of inaccurate information on the internet, so get facts from your doctor about your disease, or ask him or her for reliable sources or websites where you can learn more.