Cancer deaths on decline while patient quality of life improves

Two Katy-area oncologists explain why

By R. HANS MILLER - TIMES SENIOR REPORTER
Posted 2/13/20

The American Cancer Society has reported a decrease in cancer deaths in the U.S. of about 2.2% from 2016 to 2017 – the largest decrease in cancer mortality since statistics for cancer deaths …

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Cancer deaths on decline while patient quality of life improves

Two Katy-area oncologists explain why

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The American Cancer Society has reported a decrease in cancer deaths in the U.S. of about 2.2% from 2016 to 2017 – the largest decrease in cancer mortality since statistics for cancer deaths have been recorded. That decline is due to a mix of factors, including reduced tobacco use and improved treatment methods such as improved screening, genetic testing, immunotherapies and access to clinical trials according to Dr. Gury Doshi of Texas Oncology-Katy.

“I think the important aspect of the tobacco use is the public health education,” Doshi said. “As Americans as a country realized the negative impacts of tobacco use and really provide preventive care and access to healthcare for general preventive medicine, we are now seeing that active care is leading to decreased incidents of cancer and decreased mortality from cancer.”

Doshi said the report took some time to produce because the data must be verified by the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Amirali Popatia, an Oncology specialist at OakBend Medical Center said that targeted therapies have also contributed to the decline in cancer cases and deaths in recent years. Patients may now receive treatments that target a cancer’s specific genes, proteins or the tissue environment that contribute to the patient’s quality of life and restoration of the immune system, Popatia said in a Jan. 8 press release.

“It is not only the decrease in mortality rate that is encouraging, it is the fact that the patients are not only living longer but enjoying a better quality of life,” Popatia said. “Early screening and supportive care drugs have made improvement in the lives of cancer patients. Fewer side effects produce a better quality of life.”

Doshi agreed that early detection is an important factor in the treatment of cancer patients. Mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies and self-examinations of the breasts and genitals are all important factors in finding and treating cancer early, Doshi said.

“I would underscore the importance of annual checkups with your primary care doctor. Annual physical is a good way to make sure that you’re up to date on screening tests,” Doshi said.

The four most deadly cancers are lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers according to the American Cancer Society. Each of those saw significant decreases over the last few decades. Breast cancer deaths are down 40% from 1989 to 2017; prostate deaths are down 52% from 1993 to 2017; and, colorectal cancer mortalities are down by 53% or more from 1980 to the present day. Lung cancer deaths have declined by 51% from 1990 to 2017 among men and 26% from 2002 to 2017 among women. Rates for new lung cancer cases have dropped by 4% or more for both men and women from 2013 to 2017 alone, the American Cancer Society reports.

Doshi attributes the drop in lung, head and neck cancers she has seen recently to the reduction in tobacco use among Americans, she said.

The American Cancer Society expects a total of 1.8 million new cancer cases in 2020 with estimated cancer deaths over 600,000.

Steps can be taken to help made sure you are doing everything you can to help prevent cancer deaths, both Doshi and Popatia said.

Doshi recommends patients not only get screened regularly but educate themselves regarding cancer’s detection and treatment by speaking with their doctors and referring to the websites for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American Cancer Society and Texas Oncology or other cancer treatment centers.

Once treatment begins, Doshi said she recommends patients educate themselves on their particular form of cancer and have conversations with their doctors to identify the best treatment options. Treatments may include clinical trials, she said.

“As a clinical researcher, what I would say to patients is clinical trials offer an additional treatment option that is beyond the standard of care in the United States,” Doshi said. “In the U.S., patients can rest assured that … [they] are not ‘guinea pigs’ and that clinical trials are only approved if the patient is receiving standard of care or possibly a better treatment than standard of care.”

Doshi added that clinical trials can be beneficial to patients, but patients should continue to speak with their medical care team regularly to ensure the trial is beneficial and continues to be safe. Trials are monitored closely by independent data monitors in addition to physicians and are ended if they prove to be unsafe for patients she said.

The best way for patients to ensure treatment of the highest quality is to get screened regularly and discuss cancer risks with their doctors, Doshi said.

“I do think we need to continue to strive to provide education and access to healthcare to manage other conditions such as diabetes and obesity that are known risk factors for cancer and cancer recurrence,” Doshi said.

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