American Cancer Society: cancer deaths decline as number of diagnoses rise

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The American Cancer Society says cancer death rates are on the decline, saying better treatments has led to more survivors.

A new report from the American Cancer Society shows a decline in the number of deaths from cancer, with the death rate on the decline drastically since 1991.

The organization says because hospitals and cancer centers can provide better and more focused treatment, as opposed to a standard chemotherapy. Patients have also seen health providers detect those cancer cases earlier than in years past.

The American Cancer Society also adds a declining nationwide interest in smoking could also serve as a contributing factor.

At Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque, the hospital has noticed through enhanced treatments, patients can still live well.

"They're actually living with their cancer, or they're going into a remission, not necessarily being cured, but being able to extend their life and having higher quality of life," said David Tatman, Executive Director of the Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center. "So it's not like the chemotherapy that they would have gotten 15 or 20 years ago where they were very sick with that- they're living very high quality lives. And living longer."

Tatman says especially in the Dubuque area, sometimes cancer treatment can become more of a challenge. He says that challenge comes in part with the fact that Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque does not have their own cancer center.

The hospital has to send patients over to UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital.

But that move is temporary- until Mercy Medical Center adds its own cancer center, aiming for a completion date in May 2020. The groundbreaking for a new facility began on December 11, 2018.

Tatman said while Mercy is excited to offer cancer treatment, the challenge now becomes ensuring it has everything to fill the needs of all of their patients.

"We also have to try and predict what those trends are going to be," Tatman said. "So today about 30-percent of patients are being treated with one of those immuno or targeted therapies. So how does that impact the number of chairs we have in an infusion room, for example? Or the number of linear accelerators we need in an area?"

Tatman said as treatment adapts, so too will the need for the Mercy Cancer Center to accommodate it- especially as the number of diagnoses statewide continues to grow.

The American Cancer Society predicts more than 17,000 Iowans will be diagnosed with a form of cancer this year. Cancer centers around the state, like the one soon at Mercy, want to make sure they are ready for it.