Today is World Cancer Day and while prevention and awareness is fantastic it is not enough,we need to focus on finding a cure. Those of us with advanced cancer are the dying elephants in the room who continue to be ignored by the big wigs clapping themselves on the back for the so called increase in survival rates. The fact is the mortality rate for cancer has barely changed in 50 years.

In 2012 it is estimated there were 14 million new cancer cases worldwide, this is expected to increase to 24 million by 2035. There were 8.2 million cancer related deaths in 2012.

I am tired of being ridiculed for my willingness to try a different approach in order to live, by a medical profession that offers short term solutions that they refuse to admit will most likely kill me eventually. I don’t want to hear about palliative care and I am not grateful for the fact that modern medicine means I could very well live beyond my estimated 3 years! I want to live a full life and I want to know that everything possible is being done to try and make that happen. Unfortunately this is far from the case.

[The cancer death rate, now about 200 deaths a year per 100,000 people of all ages and 1,000 deaths per 100,000 people over age 65 — is nearly the same now as it was in 1950, dropping only 5 percent. But the death rate from heart disease is only a third of what it was in 1950. Even though more people die of heart disease than from cancer, cancer deaths have been edging closer to heart disease deaths each year.

With heart disease, says Dr. Michael S. Lauer, director of the division of prevention and population sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there were transforming discoveries in prevention and treatment. They led to effective drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, to the use of aspirin, and to smoking cessation programs, all of which reduced the number of heart attacks. And they led to treatments during and after a heart attack, like medical therapies, stents and bypass surgery, as well as powerful drugs to prevent and break down blood clots.

All these strategies contributed to the falling death rates. “Fifty years ago, these either didn’t exist or were in their infancy,” Dr. Lauer said
But with cancer, equivalent transforming advances have not emerged.

The additional diagnoses mostly result from more screening, Dr. Berry adds. While finding some cancers earlier may save lives, many would never have caused problems if they had been left alone. Others are deadly whether they are treated or not. Since there usually is no good way to decide whether a cancer will be deadly, doctors usually treat all as if they are life-threatening.

A result is an increase in diagnoses and survivors but, if treatment does not improve for deadly cancers, little change in the death rate.]

A version of this article appeared in print on April 24, 2009, on page A17 of the New York edition.

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