Cancer Victims? Try Cancer Survivors

In 1971 there were only 3 million cancer survivors. As recently as 2001 there were 9.8 million survivors.

PhRMA StaffMarch 11, 2011
Yesterday on CNN, anchor Ali Velshi @alivelshi referred to the medical innovations that save American lives every day.

That was still ringing in my ears when I came across an article about a new study conducted by the CDC and the National Cancer Institute finding that there were 11.7 million cancer survivors alive in the U.S. in 2007. That's almost 12 million people who battled cancer and won!

To put it into perspective, in 1971, there were only 3 million cancer survivors, and as recently as 2001, there were 9.8 million survivors.

Of the 11.7 million survivors, 7 million were ages 65 or older. Survivors of breast cancer made up the largest part of this survivorship, at 22 percent - an especially staggering number, given that breast cancer is the second-deadliest type of cancer that affects women, behind only lung cancer.

Incredibly, nearly half - 4.7 million - have survived at least a decade, having received their first diagnosis 10 or more years ago.

For so long, people saw "the C word" as a death sentence. This report paints a different picture. Report co-author Arica White, a CDC epidemic intelligence service officer, said, "Life is not over when you get cancer."

Survival can be due to many causes, including earlier detection, improved diagnostic tools, and new therapies such as medicines. Regardless of the causes, the report says, "cancer has become a curable disease for some and a chronic illness for others; persons living with a history of cancer are now described as cancer survivors rather than cancer victims."

Just last year, President Obama made a call for a cure for cancer in our lifetime. We aren't there yet, but the CDC/NCI report demonstrates that we're making progress.

As we build on these previous successes, the outlook may continue to look more positive for today's cancer patients. On April 1, PhRMA will be releasing our report on the number of medicines in development to treat cancer.

Given the amount of attention the disease received for researchers, I'm sure we'll see some pretty impressive numbers. But until then, 11.7 million is the number on my mind.

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