Cancer Deaths Down Two Years in a Row

by Ramonica R. Jones

Merlina Estrella made major lifestyle changes after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Now, instead of red meat and eating out, she chooses vegetables and home-cooked meals.

When doctors gave her the bad news after a colonoscopy in September 2005, she thought it was the end of the world. "That's the way I felt initially, but take time to think about it and discuss it thoroughly with your family as well," said Estrella. "It's not your burden by yourself. You need your friends around you, you need your family around you and consider all your options because there are plenty more options nowadays compared to ten years ago."

That's why the American Cancer Society's report that deaths from cancer are on the decline doesn't surprise some East Texas doctors, especially since the nation's smoking rate has been dropping for the last 10 to 15 years. Dr. Sidney Roberts said, "Nationwide, fewer people are smoking. Men stop smoking earlier than women, so lung cancer death rates in women have just now started to plateau, whereas they had been decreasing in men for some years now. In East Texas, however, we still have a higher rate of smoking than many areas in the country, so it's still a problem around here."

Dr. Roberts has some basic cancer prevention advice: eat healthy, stop smoking, and get screened. "For men, that means getting their P.S.A. blood test done each year," said Roberts. "For women, that means getting a mammogram each year and also looking for other signs of cancer such as skin changes or rectal bleeding."

Breast and prostate cancer continue to be the two most common types of cancers, but lung cancer is the most deadly form of the disease.