As a person who writes about cancer, I’ve looked at a lot of statistics in my day. No doubt you've seen them too. Black numbers on a white page that give us all a brief glimpse of what the contemporary cancer burden looks like.
Each year, the American Cancer Society publishes its Cancer Facts & Figures, a lengthy and detailed report that projects how many new cancer cases and deaths are expected to occur.
The report's main purpose is to track and record current disease trends. These numbers tell epidemiologists and researchers what cancers are increasing, declining or staying about the same in the population, and this helps pinpoint where public and private research funding is directed.
Cancer Facts & Figures also tracks survival rates, risk factors, prevention, early detection and treatment, so that each passing year we might get closer to a world in which cancer is more about living with the disease than succumbing to it.
Most of us have been touched by cancer, yet these numbers printed on a page can become benign, something to be glazed over to get to the next sentence — the meaty information you graciously chose to began reading in the first place.
It may not register at the time that these numbers actually represent real people: someone’s mother or father, brother or sister, grandparent or child. It’s not insensitivity, it’s human nature.
Survival rates are indeed improving for many cancer types and new breakthroughs hold promise, but each year we lose far too many loved ones to this insidious disease. Royalty or pauper, famous or lesser known, cancer remains an equal opportunity killer.
To put the cancer burden in a more human perspective, here’s a look back at some of the notable people who lost their cancer fight during 2012.
Reviewed January 8, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith