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Odds of Surviving Cancer Going Up

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The odds of beating cancer have gone up significantly over the past two decades, thanks in large part to early detection measures and advanced treatment options at facilities such as the Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center at Memorial.

Today there are more than 11 million cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.

Floyd Yancy, a Lufkin Independent School District substitute teacher for the past 17 years and a retired Angelina County agriculture agent, is one of those survivors. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002.

Yancey said his longtime friend, Dr. Bill Shelton, the former medical director of Memorial’s Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center who died in 2006, recommended Yancy receive treatment in Lufkin rather than traveling out of town. Yancy said he also had several friends who successfully went through radiation at the Temple Cancer Center. He decided staying in Lufkin was the best option.

“Dr. Shelton was a good friend of mine, and he told me he would take real good care of me,” Yancy said. “It was much more convenient to stay here at home, and I’m still getting satisfactory PSA readings, so I would say it was a good thing.”

After 42 radiation treatments at the Temple Cancer Center, Yancy’s cancer went into remission.

“The Lord has blessed me,” Yancy said. “My PSA levels have been as low as 0.1, and I have my doctors and the Lord to thank for that.”

According to the director of the Temple Cancer Center, Sid Roberts, MD, FACR, combinations of therapy, such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, have improved survival rates of many cancers, including historically difficult to treat cancers like esophageal and lung cancer. Less invasive surgery is also more common and can decrease recovery times and lessen the risk of surgical site infections. Newer chemotherapy combinations and targeted agents have increased cure rates for specific cancers sensitive to chemotherapy. Additionally, advances in radiation therapy have also allowed physicians to target tumors with higher doses and fewer side effects, Roberts said.

Some of the biggest gains come not only from treatment advances – as good as those have been – but from early detection and prevention, Roberts said. Better and earlier detection and prevention of cervical cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer have improved survival rates. However, people must do their part to prevent cancer, especially kicking the tobacco habit and receiving appropriate screenings.

“Since 1991, we are saving 350 more lives per day nationwide, but we can save 1,000 lives a day simply by doing the things we know to do: screening, prevention and improving access to treatment,” Dr. Roberts said. “The No. 1 intervention would be to keep our kids from smoking and for those who do smoke to quit.”

Yancy said he wholeheartedly agrees that early detection is the key to survival. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Yancy addressed members of his church about the importance of screenings, and he continues to tell others about his experience and how they can avoid what he endured.

“I’ve had friends who had cancer, and I’ve seen them grit their teeth and clench their fists in pain. No one should have to go through that,” Yancy said. “It hurts to see grown men going through something like that. Cancer is a dirty word to me.”

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society’s annual report, from the early 1990s until 2005 about 650,000 cancer deaths have been avoided (481,300 in men and 169,100 in women) because of prevention, early detection and technological advances in treatment options.

Cutline: Floyd Yancy, a Lufkin Independent School District substitute teacher for the past 17 years and retired Angelina County agriculture agent, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002. His cancer went into remission after 42 radiation treatments at the Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center. He now warns other men about the importance of receiving prostate screenings.

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