Local services impact cancer diagnoses and survival rates (sponsored) | SummitDaily.com

Local services impact cancer diagnoses and survival rates (sponsored)

Brought to you by Summit St. Anthony's Medical Center

The American Cancer Society predicts over 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2016. While this number is alarming, the ACS research shows that survival rates are increasing. This means that while more people will be diagnosed with cancer in the next two decades, the advancements in detection and treatment can change a cancer diagnosis from a death sentence to a disease.

Based off of the ACS analytics tool, the trend in five-year relative survival rates from 1975 to 2011 (latest data available) is increasing. The data shows the five-year survival rate in 1975 through 1977 at 49 percent, then increasing to 55 percent in 1987-89 and increasing again in 2005-2011 to 69 percent.

That data can also be broken down by cancer type or ethnicity. Five-year survival rates for breast cancer, for example, have increased from 75 percent in 1975-77 to 91 percent in 2005-2011.

Medical advancements

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While a multitude of factors play a role in the statistics above, many agree that advancements not only in medicines, but in technology, have made huge impacts.

"It's certainly a different era to be alive," said Jette Hogenmiller PhD, MN, APRN, with Centura Health Physicians Group Medical Oncology, in Frisco . "Even just with breast cancer, for example, we used to treat that for over a year with multiple heavy duty chemotherapy drugs, and now those (treatments) are only six months, and we'll follow with more targeted and tolerable medications."

The general trend of medicine is moving toward individual treatments based off of genetics and family history, rather than everyone having the same regimen, she added.

"It's a whole other era, quite honestly, compared to 10 years ago," she said.

Noreen Galaba is a nurse navigator at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco. She's lived in Summit County for 20 years and has seen first-hand the changes brought about by bringing in new and updated medical technology. The latest example she can point to is last year, when St. Anthony Summit Medical Center invested in the latest mammography machine that can perform digital tomosynthesis, a three-dimensional breast imaging system that provides higher clarity and definition than the the previous two-dimensional system.

"In the first month, we found a cancer in a Summit County patient that we would not have found without this technology," Galaba said. "Under the two-dimensional sequencing, the mass was not seen in the dense breast tissue, but when the three-dimensional tomosynthesis was viewed by our radiologist, we were able to identify that mass. … This patient would have gone a whole other year with this mass undetected."

And when it comes to cancer, a year is a long time, with high likelihood of the cancer progressing, which in turn would require more treatment, incurring further expenses and making recovery more difficult.

"It's very significant for a patient and their quality of life and, most importantly, the treatment that they would have to undergo," Galaba said. "The ramifications are huge."

Local availability

Another change over the years is the availability of this type of technology not only in large cities like Denver, but in rural and mountain communities. With easy, local access to health professionals and screening technology, people can be proactive about their health without having to make a long commute or deal with unfamiliar doctors and locations.

"All of us lead busy lives," Hogenmiller said. "Nobody wants to make a day journey of it."

This applies to those who have been diagnosed as well.

The toll of traveling to appointments is high on patients, said Galaba. For example, many breast cancer patients need to attend a six-hour chemotherapy session every three weeks, and repeat the process six times. Others may need to do this for a full year. Adding medication time to travel time, say from Frisco to Denver, "you're looking at a nine-hour day," Galaba said.

Then there are the other expenses to consider. "You're taking off work, and then there's children and child care, having to negotiate that, then negotiating weather, construction, and then just the hardship of any side effects from chemotherapy, when now we can offer it up here, right in this patient's home town, right here in the hospital," Galaba said.

Having people like Galaba and other professionals locally also increases education and awareness in the population, of healthy prevention techniques as well as screening availability.

"I've definitely seen an increase in ladies coming in for their screenings," Galaba said.