LOS ANGELES, Cali. (CBS) - More than 600,000 cancer deaths are expected in the U.S this year alone, but despite that number, there is hope. A new report reveals that death rates in some cancers are going down.
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Fred Powers first battled melanoma 17 years ago. Then in 2013, he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. CBS correspondent Nichelle Medina asked Powers if he thought it was a death sentence. He replied, “Mhmm. Absolutely, at the time, because there were no treatments at that point.”
The 73-year-old is now in remission thanks to a breakthrough in immunotherapy treatment.
“The tumors in my liver started to reduce. My spleen started to look better,” Powers said.
New research highlights treatment advances for cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer that are driving down the cancer death rate. An American Cancer Society report shows a 29 percent drop since 1991. The death rate fell more than two percent from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop ever reported.
Dr. Kim Margolin, an oncologist at City of Hope in California, says, “The therapies for those metastatic diseases have become so much better than they were 20, 25, 30 years ago.”
Long-term declines for lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer are behind the overall drop in cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. But while progress against lung cancer has been increasing in recent years, progress is slowing against the other three cancers.
Dr. Margolin says new therapies for melanoma are extending patients' lives, but there’s more work to be done.
“Those drugs are fantastic and they’re good for right now. We need better and safer drugs,” she says.
Powers gets skin checks every month. He’s had five surgeries and receives monthly immunotherapy treatments.
He says, “Everything could change at every moment and that’s why I have continuous gratitude every day.”
Cancer remains the second leading cause of death after heart disease in both men and women nationally, according to the American Cancer Society.
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