You’d be hard-pressed to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer. Whether a parent, grandparent, sibling, relative, co-worker, acquaintance, or friend, everyone has a cancer story. In fact, when it comes to skin cancer, two out of three of us will be diagnosed with it by the age of 70.
This article isn’t to terrify you of the reality of cancer, and the impact it has on our lives – no, it’s one to bring you hope. Because, over the last 20 years, cancer-related deaths have decreased by 20.6%. As the headline suggests, that’s 106,903 Australian lives that have been saved.
Why such a significant drop in mortality rates? According to Cancer Council NSW, which published the research, it can be “attributed to multiple factors”, including prevention, improved patient care, early detection, and reducing smoking rates.
Screening programs make a significant difference as well. National screening programs for cancers like bowel cancer and cervical cancer have played a major role in reducing the incidence and mortality rates.
Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, which saw almost 20,000 women and men diagnosed with it in 2019. The good news? The screening of women in Australia, aged 50-69, for breast cancer, has reduced the mortality rate by 21-28%.
The even better news? These benefits are likely to continue to increase. As for how? It’s due to the fact Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is reaching more people, and the benefits of a renewed Cervical Screening Program grows. In fact, one woman, Heather Turner, speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, credits the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program for saving her life.
In addition to these programs, people are smoking less, thanks to Australia’s tobacco control measures. According to Cancer Council NSW, a previous analysis estimates that 78,000 deaths were prevented from lung cancer alone between 1956-2015, due to these measures. These reduced rates also lead to fewer deaths from other cancers.
There is an increase in cancer incidence – the numbers are higher than in 1995. So while we all may still have a cancer story to tell, the figures seem to suggest that more and more of these stories will have a happier ending.