By. Ken Johnson, President & CEO
This month, Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System (HRHS) pauses to join healthcare facilities throughout the nation in observing National Cancer Survivor’s Day.
Cancer is labeled a dreaded disease, an accurate description of the affliction that has claimed millions of lives during our history. Today, thanks to meteoric advancements in medical technology and treatments, the phrase “cancer survivor” is often spoken by patients and families affected by this disease. Fifty years ago, a diagnosis of cancer was often referred to as a death sentence, but this is changing with the same speed that science is able to offer life-saving treatments.
Cancer hit its peak in the 1990s and has since declined, but 1.7 million Americans will still receive the cancer diagnosis each year. Survival rates for all cancers have increased from 49 percent in 1975 to today’s 70 percent.
Hutchinson Regional Medical Center’s (HRMC) progressive leadership team and board of directors were ahead of their time in the mid-1980s when plans were set in motion to open the Chalmers Cancer Treatment Center, a part of the HRHS campus. It was noted in the news media that Hutchinson was one of the first cities in Kansas to open a full-fledged cancer treatment center.
Since the facility opened its doors in 1988, more than 15,000 cancer patients have been treated at the Chalmers Cancer Center.
The Chalmers Cancer Treatment Center has worked to stay abreast of technological advancements made in the treatment of cancer patients. Recent technology upgrades include the “True Beam” linear accelerator which utilizes the latest technology to deliver high doses of cancer-killing radiation, while at the same time, sparing adjacent organs and structures from the powerful beam of radiation.
By latest count, more than 15.5 million Americans are cancer survivors, or five percent of the nation’s population. Survival rates are expected to increase by 31 percent (20 million) by 2026. Nearly 50 percent of cancer survivors are 70 years of age and older.
Cancer survivors are often heard to say the journey is difficult even in the best of circumstances. The Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis accurately describes cancer treatments as frightening and draining, even after completing the hurdles to earn the distinction as a survivor.
The single best thing a cancer survivor can do is to stop smoking which alone will double your chances of long-term survival. And, even if one doesn’t smoke, you should avoid second hand smoke.
Alcohol, according to Siteman Cancer Center officials may become an unhealthy way to deal with the physical and emotional stress of cancer; so cancer survivors who don’t consume alcohol should not feel a need to start and moderate drinkers are encouraged to reduce their consumption.
The American Cancer Society has embarked on a public information campaign to assist cancer survivors in their journey to recovery, and offers six tips with proven and positive outcomes.
----Achieve a healthy weight. Extra pounds leading to obesity may result in a lengthy list of diseases and ailments including the return of cancer.
----Be physically active and return to an exercise routine, which will improve the patient’s mood and helps counter cancer-related fatigue.
---Eat a healthy diet with emphasis on fruits and vegetables and choose chicken, fish or beans instead of red meat while avoiding fast food restaurants and snacks such as cookies.
---Utilize recommended cancer screenings.
----Create a personal survivorship Care Plan, with goals and projects designed to create a positive outcome.
---Take care of your emotional health. A positive attitude can be a powerful medicine. It is unanimous among cancer experts that there is significant power in maintaining connection with family and friends, all of which improves quality of life. Social media email and old fashioned telephone calls all play a positive role in long-term survival. Cancer survivor support groups are recommended.
It is not surprising that for those individuals not affected by cancer, the tips recommended for reducing the risk of contracting the disease are similar to cancer survivors including healthy eating habits, an active lifestyle, including frequent exercise and by not smoking.
We are very proud of the Chalmers Cancer Treatment Center team which includes physicians, technologists, nurses, and mid-levels who formulate an individual treatment plan for each patient to increase the odds of a full recovery.