In 2001, a routine PSA blood test helped John Nemeth, 77, of Glendora detect prostate cancer at a very early stage.
Twelve years later, the cancer is gone after undergoing a minimally invasive treatment.
According to 2013 National Report Card on Cancer, success stories like Nemeth's are on the rise. Deaths from the top four cancer killers are dropping.
From 2001 to 2010, lung cancer deaths dropped 29 percent, a faster rate than in previous years.
But Dr. Dan Raz, co-director of City of Hope Lung Cancer program, adds deaths from melanoma, pancreatic cancer and liver cancer continue to rise.
Paul Shoop, 66, of Malibu is fighting a rare type of cancer that can be described as a combination of leukemia and lymphoma. He was told three years ago he'd have two months to live.
He credits treatment advances for his survival and says fighting cancer is like being a line backer against an evasive opponent.
"You just have to divert him a little bit, and a cancer if you can just divert it into a different form, you can keep it from being as virulent or back it down a little bit - that's a successful story that adds years to your life," said Shoop.
While advances in treatments are keeping patients like Shoop alive, experts credit awareness, education and early detection for overall improvement in survival rates.
"The reasons are mainly because of tobacco control for lung cancer primarily, for increased screening for breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer," said Raz.
The report also found one-third of cancer patients over 65 have other health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes which can lower their chances of survival.
The report also found that pediatric cancer is also on the rise, but so are survival rates which means treatments are getting better.