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Cancer Death Rates Drop 20% in 20 Years
At just 44, Barbi Walter was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and found out it spread to her colon and stomach lining. After intense chemotherapy and surgery, she has been cancer-free for almost a year.
"It's really empowering to me to be able to say I went through all of that and I was able to survive it," Walter said.
Now back to doing what she loves in her Sherman salon, she's not the only one celebrating. Cancer death rates have dropped 20 percent in last two decades, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Tom Robbins is the Director of Simmons Cancer Institute and President of the Illinois division for the American Cancer Society.
"The war on cancer has not been won," Robbins said. "We have to continue fighting. Twenty percent is a good start but we have a long ways to go."
He said the drop in death rates is because of early detection, thanks in part to improvements in technology and cancer treatment. The single biggest reason for the good news is fewer people smoking.
"We have proven that by diminishing smoking rates, that cancer mortality is dropping because of that," Robbins said.
Robbins is hopeful that with expanded access to health care through the Affordable Care Act, death rates from cancer will continue to improve.
"One of the issues with cancer is often when it's diagnosed, it's advanced, and the more advanced the cancer, the harder it is to be cured," Robbins said. "With better access to healthcare, people hopefully will come forward when having symptoms and have cancer discovered at an earlier stage."
The report also includes somber news. The American Cancer Society estimates 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and more than 580,000 will die because of it. Only cardiovascular disease will kill more Americans.