June is National Cancer Survivor Month, a month to remember those who have battled with cancer, regardless of the outcome. Specifically, the first Sunday of June is National Cancer Survivor Day and is celebrated throughout the world. Cancer is a difficult disease that can affect anyone- infants, children, youth, and adults. It can be something as simple as finding a bump on your skin and having it removed, to not feeling well for a few months and being diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. We are continuing to develop new treatments, screening methods, and genetic tests, and hope someday for a cure, but for now it’s important to remember and honor those who have fought cancer.
National Cancer Survivor Day
National Cancer Survivor Day will be held this year on Sunday, June 7th, 2020. It is the 33rd Annual National Cancer Survivors Day headed by the National Cancer Survivors Day (NCSD) Foundation, a nonprofit organization. You can visit their website at ncsd.org. For the NCSD foundation, their annual event is about celebrating cancer survivors, inspiring those who have been recently diagnosed with cancer, supporting families and loved ones, and reaching out to the community. It is a day to provide hope that there can be life after cancer, and a fruitful and fulfilling one at that.
In the United States there are more than 16.9 million cancer survivors. A survivor is defined as anyone living with a history of cancer, from people newly diagnosed with cancer to the end of their life. Even after defeating cancer, a person continues to be considered in remission, and will be monitored and screened for signs of cancer throughout the rest of their life. According to the American Cancer Society cancer death rates have actually declined in the past few decades. The overall cancer death rate rose during the 1900s and peaked in 1991. As of 2017, there has been a decline of about 29% of cancer deaths due to reduction in smoking and improvements in early detection and treatment. This means that there are more than 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths from 1991 to 2017!
Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment
So if someone is diagnosed with cancer, what are the chances of surviving in today’s world? While it varies among different cancer types, the 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers according to the American Cancer Society is 70% among Caucasians and 64% among African Americans. Prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women are the leading sites of new cancer cases predicted in 2020. For children, 1 in 389 children will be diagnosed with cancer by age 15.
While some of these cancer facts and statistics can seem daunting, it is important to remember that we have made great progress in cancer treatment, early detection, and screening methods. In addition, we have also started focusing on improvements in quality of life after treatment, such as developing better fertility preservation methods for young adults diagnosed with cancer. There are usually many options for individuals diagnosed with cancer, and while we lose many people to cancer, there are many that survive and live a full life.
If you are interested in celebrating National Cancer Survivor Month, simply visit ncsd.org to learn more about it. You can even host your own event! In addition, if you are concerned about your risk for cancer or have a strong family history of cancer, please contact AT-GC and meet with a genetic counselor to learn more about your risks. Let’s celebrate those who have survived cancer and family members who have supported cancer survivors!