Cancer mortality drops for the first time in history! The age adjusted cancer death rate declined from 1990 to 1995 by 3.1% from 135.0 per 100,000 population to 129.8, the lowest it has been since 25 years ago. Further, the decline is accelerating and continuing at about 2% per year.
The authors of this report attribute this to earlier detection and improved treatments. We agree with this completely but believe they are failing to give credit to the psychological changes that have taken place in the same period. The public has been bombarded with stories of cancer successes. Individuals who were brought up to believe that a diagnosis of cancer was equivalent to impending death were suddenly aware that if they tried to fight, they had an excellent chance, better than 50%, of beating the disease. Further, that if they caught the disease earlier their chances of successful treatment were dramatically enhanced. And the treatments are not as bad as they had been touted because they have been improved.
One national figure in the cancer war stated, “It is likely that there will be a 25% decrease in the overall death rate from cancer, and possibly as much as 50% decrease, in the next 20 years.” Progress is being made! There are two caveats in the data. First, the overall death rate, as compared to the age-adjusted death rate, continues to rise because the population is aging and cancer is a disease of old age. Physicians predict cancer will surpass heart disease as the nation’s leading killer by the year 2000.
Second, while African Americans have shown substantial improvements, the overall death rate is still 40% higher in black men than in white men. We believe that this second factor is primarily due to black men believing they can not get “as good” medical treatment and therefore, not trying to beat it, or procrastinating. In every community we know of, state-of-the-art therapy is available to any cancer patient first and payment due later. A great deal of publicity of this fact and eliminating fear of the unknown to the black community should substantially reduce the adverse mortality figures.
By educating the public, the R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation feels that it is helping toward the goal of reducing cancer mortality, with its minority program, Cancer Hotline, multidisciplinary second opinions, free books on surviving cancer for both patients and supporters, Cancer Support Center, Clergy Program, promoting the government’s Physician Data Query, sponsoring the Cancer Survivors Rally and supporting National Cancer Survivors Day, and particularly its Cancer Survivors Parks. For further information, or to find out how you can participate or help, call 816-854-5050 or 800-433-0464 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.