The Present and Future of Cancer Care

The Present and Future of Cancer Care

Ayden Nguyen, Writer

Currently, cancer care has been good. But, the future isn’t very promising according to the American Association for Cancer Research(AACR).

In 2020, the AACR Progress Report found that the amount of cancer survivors in the United States was 16.9 million survivors, the highest ever recorded. From 1991 to 2017 the cancer rate fell by 29%. Additionally, since August 2019, the United States Food and Drug Administration(FDA) have approved 35 new treatments. Of these treatments, some helped treat cancers that previously had little or no options for treatment. Dr. Antoni Ribas, president of the AACR, says that he has seen improvement. Ten years ago, rarely any treatments for metastatic melanoma were effective. Now, half of Ribas’ patients with this cancer will benefit from treatments. “Even though we have made many advances against cancer, much more work needs to be done,” Ribas says, “For example, it is estimated that more than 4 out of 10 cancer diagnosis, among us adults aged 30 or older, are attributable to potentially preventable causes such as smoking, obesity, and alcohol.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has also affected cancer care. Almost 80% of people who are in or are waiting for cancer treatment have to wait because of the virus. According to data, cancer screenings for common cancers have dropped in numbers ever since the first coronavirus case. Delays in these screenings and treatments are predicted to cause more than 10,000 cancer deaths over the next 10 years.

Obesity, dietary choices, and being physically inactive attributed to 20% of new cancers. More than 40% of the United States population is obese,  and within the next decade 50% of the population is expected to be obese. “This rapid increase in obesity has fueled alarming increases in the incidence rates of a number of cancers related to obesity,” said Dr. Christopher Li, an epidemiologist. “Research on how the effects of obesity and cancer can be countered along with new strategies to reduce obesity and curb this major epidemic are of critical public health importance.” Another risk factor, perhaps the greatest, is aging. More than half the people who have cancer are above 65 years old. And that age group is expected to double or more in the next 40 years. With so many people in that age group, the number of cancer cases in the United States is predicted to rise by half a million cases.

The good news is that survival rates for children and teens have increased from 63% to 85% but that doesn’t mean that cancer isn’t a risk anymore. An estimated 413,000 children will develop cancer while 328,000 will die from it in 2020. Cancer also remains as the second most common cause of death for children and teens. Additionally, African-American children are 50% more likely to die of cancer than white children.

Racial differences are also a factor in the survival rates among children and adults.. For example, the death rates from stomach cancer is twice as high among Hispanics versus non-Hispanics. Also, African-American women with ovarian cancer usually live for half as long as white women with ovarian cancer. Access to care and insurance is also crucial. Liver cancer patients with insurance live twice as long than liver cancer patients with no coverage. Also, populations lacking medical service will get less education on what cancer is and how to prevent it and may have trouble getting treatments delivered to them.

“There are multiple complex reasons for those differences but the majority of these factors are directly influenced by ongoing structural and systemic racism in our country,” Li said, “In order to meaningfully address them, we need to continue to see broad changes in institutional and government policies and practices.”

The AACR called for government funding for cancer research and allowing people to have better access to health care and screenings. People can help themselves also. Scientists recommend regular checkups and screenings to detect cancer at a stage in which treatment is most effective. Regular exercise can reduce risk for nine different types of cancer while quitting, or not starting, to smoke or vape can also reduce one’s risk to develop cancer. “By working together we will be in a better position to accelerate the pace of progress,” said Dr. Margaret Foti, AACR’s chief executive officer, “and make major strides toward the goal of preventing and curing all cancers at the earliest possible time.”