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Patel: Putting cancer statistics into perspective

Publication: Round Rock Leader

We live in the so called Information Age where statistical figures abound. But when it comes to the breadth and scope of cancer, putting those statistics into perspective is helpful.

For example, the American Cancer Society estimates more than 1.7 million new cancer cases will be identified in the U.S. this year. Sounds like a lot. But what if I told you 1.7 million people is nearly the size of the city populations of San Antonio, Waco and Temple combined?

Here’s another one: An estimated 161,000 men will learn they have prostate cancer this year. That’s more people than can fit into a Dallas Cowboys football game and a Texas Tech Red Raiders football game at capacity, combined.

Cancer-related statistics tell an important story about prevention, treatment options and survivorship, and researching disease trends helps develop cures. Putting the statistics into perspective is key, as information is important to knowing with confidence steps you can take to manage your health.

The Cancer Society notes 20 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are preventable. You might ask, what does that mean for me?

The important lesson in that information point is all about what you can do to reduce your cancer risk. Excess body weight, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, tobacco use and poor nutrition are known causes of cancer. All are behaviors you can control — limiting bad behavior and leaning into positive steps.

Simply put: Eat right. Exercise. Don’t smoke.

According to the Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third-most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women, but 9 out of 10 times it can be treated successfully when caught early.

The math lesson here: colonoscopies save lives. Cancer screenings, even uncomfortable ones, are necessary. They also can result in less invasive treatment in the instance of a cancer diagnosis.

Staying current on screenings and annual exams can increase the odds — yes, more numbers — of detecting cancer early, before it has had a chance to spread. This is especially important if you have a personal or family history of cancer.

Less than 5 percent — that’s the relatively small number of adult cancer patients who participate in clinical trials, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Yet it is through research, with patients willing to try promising treatments, that new breakthroughs are discovered. So it is important that we in the oncology field do a better job of explaining the benefits of clinical trial participation to our patients — how they can help themselves and others whose cancer may respond well to the therapies under study.

The Cancer Society estimates 600,920 cancer-related deaths will occur in 2017. That’s almost as many people who live in El Paso. But does your perspective change when I tell you for every three new cancer cases there will be two survivors? That means 1.2 million people will survive cancer this year — a far more positive statistic.

Statistics. Numbers. Doing the math when it comes to cancer ultimately comes down to this number: One.

Each patient is one patient, an individual with a unique personal and clinical situation that becomes the focus of medical teams and loved ones gathered together in a community of support.

At Texas Oncology, there are two important numbers: 176 (how many locations we have) and more than 4,000 (the size of our combined team delivering advanced, innovative care without compromise to patients in communities all across our state).

Read the full story at The Round Rock Leader.

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