Talking positively about cancer is difficult and usually insensitive to the patients, their loved ones and doctors who try to treat cancer.
However, a positive piece of news about cancer made headlines recently – that patients are surviving for longer, and fewer patients are dying from their cancer.
Many outlets, including CNN, reported that the cancer death rate has fallen each of the past three years. The data came from the American Association for Cancer Research (AARC). This news is promising for all cancer patients, including those with the rare cancer mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma doesn’t develop in many patients, but those who are diagnosed usually have a discouraging prognosis of only a few months. The survival rates haven’t improved for mesothelioma, but the survival getting better for cancer in general hopefully is a precursor to a better future for mesothelioma patients.
Stats About Cancer Death Rates Dropping
There are 18 million cancer survivors in the United States, but the number is supposed to increase 26 million by 2040. By comparison, there were only 3 million cancer survivors in the 1970s. “Cancer survivor” is defined as someone living who at one point in their life had cancer. So the number of survivors is higher than ever.
Even better, the 5-year survival rate continues to rise. CNN reported the rate was just 49% for all cancers in the 1970s, and it’s now nearly 70%. This rate was as of 2017, so it might be even higher.
This also means a smaller percentage of patients are dying of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cancer death rate dropped 27% from 2001-2020.
Mesothelioma Guide will go through a few reasons why the cancer death rates are decreasing and patients are living for longer despite the tumors in their body.
Smoking Is Less Common
Many cancers are caused by preventable reasons, most notably smoking tobacco cigarettes. One of the cancers linked to asbestos exposure, lung cancer, is the most deadly cancer. The CDC reports approximately 136,000 deaths from lung cancer in 2020. A small portion of those cases are asbestos lung cancer.
The next most deadly cancers are:
- Colorectal cancer (51,869 deaths)
- Pancreatic cancer (46,774)
- Breast cancer (42,275)
- Prostate cancer (32,707)
- Liver cancer (28,227)
One of the main reasons for the drop in cancer death rate is the drop in lung cancer death rate, which is linked to a decrease in the number of lung cancer rates. According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of lung cancer in men has been decreasing for decades. This is mostly linked to fewer people smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Other reasons are more screenings for cancer, which is catching cancer earlier and beginning treatment in stage 1 or stage 2, when survival rates are higher.
Treatment Is Improving
One of the biggest reasons cancer survival is up and death rates are down is the advancement of treatment. This topic can be explained with the emergence of immunotherapy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is approving multiple immunotherapy drugs each year for various cancers. In October 2020, the FDA approved two immunotherapy drugs – Opdivo and Yervoy – for people with unresectable pleural mesothelioma. Opdivo and Yervoy are a type of immunotherapy called immune checkpoint inhibitors.
Another type of immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy. This type of immunotherapy alters the genetics of T cells to direct them to seek out cancer cells. CAR T-cell therapy is approved for blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
There are other therapies that have emerged for many types of cancer, including monoclonal antibodies and gene therapy. Surgery is also improving with better technology, more experienced doctors, and minimally invasive techniques.
Outlook for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is one of the rarest types of cancer, and one of the toughest to treat and survive. There are only 3,000 new cases each year. The average survival is 1-2 years, and surgery is rarely an option due to patients being diagnosed in stage 3 or stage 4.
There are no statistics pointing to a decrease in mesothelioma cases, decrease in mesothelioma deaths, and increase in mesothelioma survival rates. However, the drop in asbestos exposure points to a promising future – as fewer people will be exposed to this carcinogen.
Drop in Asbestos Usage
Asbestos is no longer a part of manufacturing. It’s not added to construction materials or insulation like it was for most of the 20th century. The main concern now is legacy asbestos, which is in old homes and offices. There are fewer construction workers, electricians and manufacturing plant workers being exposed to asbestos regularly.
Since asbestos exposure can lead to cancer 20-50 years after the incident, there probably won’t be any noticeable difference from the decrease in asbestos usage for a few decades. However, there is potential for a significant drop in mesothelioma cases, which hopefully will lead to fewer deaths.
The improvement of mesothelioma treatment is another potential source for improved survival. The new approval of immunotherapies for mesothelioma may help patients who cannot have surgery and otherwise would receive chemotherapy. Additionally, more cancer surgeons are becoming skilled at performing operations to remove mesothelioma tumors.
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Sources & Author
About the Writer, Devin Golden
Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin’s objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.
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