Cancer rates are on the decline

Jean Murphy, 62, rolls up her sleeves as she gets ready to fight another round with breast cancer. She was first diagnosed 16 years ago.

"All of a sudden in 2000, it came back and it came back into my bones," said Murphy.

At one time the news was very grim.

"I went to one facility and they gave me three months to live," said Murphy.

But an oncologist at City of Hope took on her case.

"We found an answer, we found a way," said Murphy.

New medications make Jean feel hopeful. Her survival story fits in with the latest national report on the status of cancer. For the first time both incidence and death rates have dropped.

Medical oncologist Dr. Robert Figlin credits campaigns against smoking plus the advancement of targeted treatments.

"We are identifying many treatments for many cancers that didn't exist 5 to 10 years ago. This is having a major impact on the survivability of patients with cancer," said Dr. Figlin.

While all of the hard work is paying off and we are on the decline today, experts say the biggest hurdle ahead for cancer specialists are the aging baby boomers.

"By the year 2010, 25 percent of our population will be over the age of 55," said Dr. Figlin.

Experts also point out where efforts need to be accelerated. More women die from lung cancer than men, and some states do a better job of prevention than others.

Jean Murphy thinks overall, the news is encouraging.

"You have to have hope. You cannot give up, and you have to be positive," said Murphy.

Besides quit smoking campaigns, Dr. Figlin also credits mammography, colonoscopy, PSA screenings with digital exams and the cervical cancer vaccine for helping reduce incidence.

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