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Cancer Rates Decrease in the United States

Publication: Baytown Sun

A concerted effort has led to a decrease in the United States cancer rate.

The beginning of the year came with groundbreaking news that the nation recorded its largest one-year decline in the cancer death rates. The latest statistics revealed a 2.2 percent drop from 2016 to 2017 according to an American Cancer Society Report.

The Associated Press reported the rate has been dropping about 1.5 percent a year since 1991. The lead author of the society report, Rebecca Siegel, indicated it is driven by lung cancer. There are a number of factors that have led to the decrease for not only lung cancer but also other cancers in the nation and locally.

Dr. Pamela Medellin is a cancer liaison physician for Texas Oncology and is affiliated with Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital. She said some of the factors include early detection, patients receiving appropriate treatments, improved therapy and patients becoming more cognizant of their own health.

“They are exercising and eating better,” she said.

Medellin added there are screening programs for breast cancer, cervical cancer and colon cancer among others.

“We have patients that are doing this and it is a multitude of things,” she said.

The foundation is a focus on the dangers of cancer and increased education. Medellin said education was a large part of the success story.

“People are aware of the dangers of smoking, and some cancer patients do not smoke,” she said. “We have screening for those at risk. There are new chemotherapy treatments, new medicines for stage 1 and stage 2 and surgery for stage 3.”

In addition to the enhancements in treatment, there are drugs that can be targeted for markers. Markers are substances found at higher than normal levels in the blood, urine or body tissue of some people with cancer.

“Doctors are being informed of new treatments and learning more at society meetings,” Medellin said. “There has been an explosion of new markers and new treatment.”

The explosion has resulted in what Medellin describes as exponential changes since she arrived in Baytown in 1983. At that time, there were a few drugs available for lung cancer, a couple of combinations for breast cancer and a hormonal therapy. Now, there is a new group of medications and not only are there changes in chemotherapy, there is immunotherapy.

Locally, Medellin said the statistics mirror those at the national level.

“More patients are living longer with lung cancer and more patients are treated for early stage cancer,” she said. “The screenings are very effective.”

It has been rewarding for Medellin. As a physician with Texas Oncology, she belongs to an organization that boasts the largest group of doctors. It hosts clinical trials at different areas in Houston through MD Anderson and Houston Methodist. Medellin said Texas Oncology has participated in 90 new drugs that have been approved by the FDA and offers community-based oncology.

It is one of the benefits Baytown enjoys being located near great hospital systems that have proven effective in developing treatments for cancer.

“We have come a long way with the hospital system,” Medellin said. “I was part of a group that instituted the cancer center. We have come a long way. We participate in tumor board and there is education and opinions from other specialists in other groups. There is also the registry from the American Cancer Society. We have one at Houston Methodist.”

View the full story at Baytown Sun.

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