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Cancer survival rates continue to increase – but what comes next?

Cancer survival

Cancer is a despised epidemic which affects millions of people worldwide. It slowly eats away at the lives of people who have been diagnosed with cancer while causing distress and heartbreak for people whose loved ones are suffering from cancer.

However, the proportion of cancer patients who live through the disease and ultimately beat it is higher than ever. Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments are becoming increasingly advanced and effective, which gives patients a far better chance of surviving cancer now compared to 15 or 20 years ago.

On Sunday 4th June, the 30th annual Cancer Survivors Day was acknowledged around the world in recognition of those incredibly courageous people who lived through cancer and thankfully succeeded in beating it. It is a day that intends to provide a source of inspiration for people who may have been recently diagnosed with the disease, giving them hope that they too can be victorious in the fight against cancer.

Just as confirmation of a cancer diagnosis is extremely difficult news to take, being notified of the all-clear from cancer is a moment of great joy for patients and their families. Life after cancer can be highly rewarding and inspiring, although several challenges are likely to remain. This post aims to communicate what cancer survivors can expect after they have been given the prized all-clear.

Cancer survivor

Cancer survival rates offer renewed encouragement

It will come as little consolation to the families of those who have died from the disease, but the overall likelihood of surviving cancer has increased substantially over the years, as many research figures indicate.

1. Between 2010 and 2014, death rates decreased for 11 of the 16 most common types of cancer in men and 13 of the 18 most common types in women.

2. Between 1999 and 2013, overall cancer incidences and new cancer diagnoses decreased in men.

3. Five-year survival rates for almost all cancer types have increased significantly in the last 10 years compared to the 1970s.

4. Prostate cancer, kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma, and leukaemia all have survival rates more than 25% greater than their respective figures from 40 years ago.

5. Prostate cancer has the highest rate of five-year survival at 99.3%. Thyroid, melanoma and female breast cancer also have five-year survival rates of more than 90%.

Source: Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer 1975-2014

1. The average five-year cancer survival rate in Ireland increased from 44.7% between 1994 and 1999 to 59.9% between 2008 and 2012.

2. The average five-year cancer survival rate in Ireland is slightly higher for women (60.5%) than men (59.4%).

3. The average five-year cancer survival rate in Ireland for patients aged 15-44 is 80.7%. It is only slightly lower for the 45-54 (73.6%) and 55-64 (67.1%) age groups.

Source: National Cancer Registry Ireland

This video features a breast cancer survivor talking about her experience of getting the disease treated and overcoming cancer.

How to beat cancer

Being diagnosed with cancer is one of the hardest pieces of news you and your family could ever receive, but once the initial shock has sunk in, there possibly comes the realisation that cancer is not strictly permanent. It can be overcome, and you have the power to tackle cancer head-on and emerge triumphant.

1. Detoxify your body: If you can eliminate environmental toxins from your diet and your external surroundings, your chances of beating cancer could improve significantly. You can achieve this by eating organic foods and avoiding chlorinated or fluoridated water. Concentrating on drinking fruit or vegetable juices is also helpful, while it is advised to use non-toxic cleaners, cosmetics and furniture in your home.

2. Simple exercise: Poor circulation leads to inadequate oxygenation, which affects your flow of blood, and the less oxygen that enters your blood cells, the less likely you are to survive cancer. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous; just do what you can, even if it’s a short walk, and this will help to increase circulation and allow oxygen to be carried into your cells.

3. Substitute artificial foods for organic: Artificial sweeteners such as sugar and refined grains increase cancer risks, so these should be removed from your diet completely. You can replace them with healthier sweeteners like stevia and xylitol, while the consumption of organic whole foods and flax oil or fish oil helps to create firm building blocks for cell walls.

4. Substitute acidic foods for alkaline: Acidic foods such as meat, poultry, dairy products, fish, eggs and junk food all damage your capability of beating cancer. Alkaline foods like fruit and vegetables should replace anything acidic in your diet. Aim for an alkaline-acidic ratio of 3:1, which is reasonably attainable even if your existing intake is largely acidic.

Life after cancer

Life after cancer

In extreme contrast to the devastating news of cancer diagnosis, confirmation of the all-clear from cancer after living with the disease is one of the most uplifting things you could ever be told. Being given another shot at life is a precious gift, although the initial euphoria and relief will subside and the reality is that life after cancer is not as straightforward as what it had been prior to diagnosis. What are some of the cancer survivorship issues that you should be prepared to encounter?

1. Possibility of recurrence: Even if you overcome cancer once, there may be a sense of trepidation with any calls for a mammogram or an abnormal blood test. The spectre of cancer could still be present with any health issues or doctors’ visits.

2. Reluctance to make big decisions: The lingering fear of cancer recurring might hold you back from making significant life decisions such as getting married or changing jobs, for fear of the consequences of a recurrence.

3. Difficulty with insurance: In the same way that walking away from a car crash will result in your motor insurance premium skyrocketing, surviving cancer could make it difficult for you to maintain or obtain health insurance or life insurance.

4. Difficulty finding work: Even if you feel physically and psychologically able to return to work after beating cancer, employers could be reluctant to hire you in case you encounter severe health problems further down the line.

5. Less money in the bank: Money is never more important than health, but nor can you live without having enough money to cover your expenditure. Medical bills are likely to be higher, and if you are unable to find work, this will obviously affect your income.

6. Guilt: You shouldn’t feel guilty about surviving cancer, but this can be a natural emotional response from a cancer survivor when they hear about someone dying from the disease. It’s natural to become attached to others who are fighting the same battle as you and it’s especially tough when they don’t succeed in the battle against cancer. In this case, it’s best to adopt the mindset that there’s nothing more you (or indeed anyone) could have done to help a person who dies from cancer. Ultimately, the fate of cancer patients is out of human control.

Life will never quite be the same again for those who survive cancer, but any challenges encountered can be overcome. Remember, the biggest challenge of all has already been faced and you will have emerged victorious.