SPONSORED: New technology leads to 26-year decline in cancer deaths

Published: Feb. 5, 2020 at 7:44 AM CST
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There is good news to share in the fight against cancer. More Americans are surviving cancer than ever before. In fact, the American Cancer Society released a report last month showing 26 straight years of declining deaths due to cancer.

"The horizons are wide open for things that we could have only dreamt about ten years ago or even five years ago," says Dr. Nagy Elsayyad, a radiation oncologist at Marshfield Clinic Health System.

For Dr. Elsayyad, it's been a thrilling 30 years in the industry.

"I remember when we had patients who we could offer very little for," says Dr. Elsayyad. "The whole rationale for treatment has changed. Advancements in technology made that possible."

Doctors can now detect certain mutations of the same type of cancer.

"If you have a lung cancer in a patient and the same lung cancer, exactly the same under the microscope in another patient, they may have different mutations and each of them would have a different target, so each of them would be treated differently," says Dr. Elsayyad.

It's called the personalization of cancer treatment, and it's having a big impact on patient through a very small method.

"We could give a very high dose to a very localized volume of treatment which may be one CC, so that's less than half an inch, by less than half an inch, by less than half an inch. Now there are techniques where we talk in fractions of a millimeter, microns, where we can give radiation very small volume of tissue," says Dr. Elsayyad.

Advancements in the treatments of specific types of cancers are even shocking the doctors who fight the disease every day.

"There is a type of lung cancers that we didn't know about in the past, occurs in non-smokers, more in women than in men, and at a younger age and they have certain mutations," says Dr. Elsayyad. "You can take a pill for that and that keeps the cancer at bay even if it's widely spread for years. If you had told me that when I was a medical student, I wouldn't have believed you."

Doctors say they hope patients know that even if they receive the dreaded diagnosis, it doesn't always mean it's a death sentence.

"People used to refer to cancer as the 'Big C,' they couldn't even enunciate the word," says Dr. Elsayyad. "There are cancers now that we have turned into chronic diseases."

"I hope that people have changed their way of thinking about cancer in a positive way that there are now choices, options that we didn't have in the past as far as treatment goes," says Dr. Elsayyad.

Cancer death rates have dropped 29% since 1991, meaning nearly 2.9 million lives have been saved. More specifically, death rates from breast cancer have dropped 40%, lung cancer death rates are down 51% and prostate cancer death rates have dropped 52%.