Columns for The Lufkin News

Winning the War on Cancer

Posted Mar 04, 2014 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

“I have cancer.” What is your first reaction when someone tells you that? Not the same as when you hear, “I have diabetes,” or, “I high blood pressure.” Something about cancer scares the bejesus out of us. But, should it?

Twenty-plus years ago, when I first started practice, I would quote that we cured around fifty percent of patients. People didn’t believe me then, and you may not think we cure that many today. In fact, we now cure fully two-thirds of cancer patients! We have made remarkable progress in the war on cancer, thanks in no small part to the work of the American Cancer Society. In lung cancer alone, there has been a 20% decline in cancer death, largely due to decreased rates of cigarette smoking.

We just celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health. This major report, relying on research conducted by the American Cancer Society, exposed the lies of the tobacco industry and laid to rest any doubt that smoking causes lung cancer. We still don’t cure very many lung cancers today – about 15 out of 100 – but we can prevent the vast majority of cases. Since the Surgeon General’s report, eight million lives have been saved, and almost 20 years of life have been added to those lives saved!

Unfortunately, lung cancer is a global problem. There were six trillion cigarettes consumed in 2009! Last century, tobacco killed 100 million people worldwide. This century, tobacco is projected to kill 1 billion people, mostly in the developing world.

Decreasing lung cancer death rates in the United Statesis just one success story. Over the last nearly 40 years, breast cancer cure rates have increased from 75% to 90%, colon and rectal cancer cure rates have risen from around 50% to two-thirds, and prostate cancer 5-year survival has gone from 68% to 100%. How did we do it?

Better yet, how did YOU do it? You got your mammograms, Pap smears, PSA blood tests, and colonoscopies. You prevented cervical cancer by taking care of precancerous lesions found on Pap smear, or by getting your HPV vaccine. You prevented colorectal cancer by having precancerous polyps removed. You caught your breast cancer or your prostate cancer early by getting a mammogram or a PSA blood test. You noticed a mole changing and had it removed. YOU took charge of your health!

But there is a new danger lurking: obesity. Predictions are, obesity will surpass tobacco as the leading cause of death in the next two decades. Like with tobacco, both cancer and heart disease risk are increased with obesity. Fighting obesity is a lifestyle change, for sure. To change up an old phrase, “An ounce of prevention… is a TON or work!” And, unlike screening tests, you have to work at the diet and exercise continually. (Funny how I preach to myself in these columns!)

Anyway, next time you hear someone say, “I have cancer,” know that they are quite likely going to beat it. The war on cancer isn’t over. We still need to support research, provide prevention and detection programs, work for access to quality healthcare programs, and advocate for smoke-free public places. Walk in Relay for Life on Friday, May 2, 2014 at 6:00 PM at LufkinMiddle School! Support the Cattle Barons Gala, which will be October 25th! The American Cancer Society is the backbone in the fight against cancer. Finally, be a friend and encourager to those with cancer. It’s all about more birthdays, after all!

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Meet Our Team

Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Radiation Oncologist

Madelene Collier, RN, OCN

Madelene Collier, RN, OCN

Radiation Oncology Nurse

Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

Lead Radiation Therapist

Aimee Salas, RT (T)

Aimee Salas, RT (T)

Radiation Therapist

Josh Yarbrough, RT (R)(CT)(T)

Josh Yarbrough, RT (R)(CT)(T)

Radiation Therapist

Julie McClain, RT (R)(T)

Julie McClain, RT (R)(T)

Dosimetrist

Linda Miller, MS

Linda Miller, MS

Medical Radiation Physicist

Evelyn Leach

Evelyn Leach

Receptionist