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Surviving cancer — and reclaiming health

In the 1960s, cancer most often meant a dire prognosis. The percentage of people living at least five years after being diagnosed was in the single digits for most cancers.

But today the National Cancer Institute reports that about two-thirds of people diagnosed with cancer are expected to live at least five years after diagnosis.

Better technologies and advances in ways to detect and treat cancer receive much of the credit for these improving survival rates. And now that more people are living longer after cancer, investigators are taking on a relatively new branch of cancer research — survivorship.

“While we anticipate cancer survivors will lead healthy, active lives, some will develop complications from their chemotherapy and other treatments,” says Masonic Cancer Center member Anne Blaes, M.D.

A pioneer in the field

The University of Minnesota has been a leader in this emerging field. The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study was started at the University in 1993 in hopes of better understanding the long-term effects of cancer therapies on children’s health. (The study is ongoing today.)

Cancer survivors of all ages may face a host of new health issues after their treatment, including heart problems, infertility, osteoporosis, and secondary cancers, to name a few. They may also meet neurocognitive, emotional, and financial challenges after treatment.

Importance of follow-up care

But with the right help and monitoring, these “late effects” of cancer treatment don’t have to rule survivors’ lives. Today experts at the University-affiliated Long-Term Follow-Up Clinic are helping survivors — of both childhood and adult cancers — stay on top of their health and catch any potential consequences of their treatments early.

And through research, the Masonic Cancer Center team hopes to find the right balance in the development of therapies that are tough enough to kill cancer but not so harsh that they cause long-term health problems.

Help support this research
Make a gift today to cancer survivorship research or another Masonic Cancer Center effort. Thank you for your support!

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