LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - New research shows fewer people are dying of cancer and one young cancer survivor said it's encouraging to know the disease no longer means death.
Josh Havard survived and turned 22 Tuesday.
"I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma," said Havard. "It's cancer in the Lymph nodes."
"What most people don't realize is that we cure more than half of cancer patients today," said Memorial Health System of East Texas Dr. Sid Roberts.
Havard is proof of that. Just 22 days ago he found out he's in remission.
"It was a surprise to me," Havard said. "I never dreamed of having cancer at this age."
The survival rate among cancer patients has slowly increased over the last several years in part because the disease is detected early.
"There was a bump just over my left collarbone that I kind of said, hey what's up," explained Havard. "I went to the doctor and over about a month, they did biopsies and test and diagnosed it as Hodgkin's Lymphoma."
"[With] most cancers there is a correlation between how early you catch it and how curable it is," Roberts said.
He said the more advanced the cancer is, the tougher it is to get rid of, but many childhood cancers are curable these days.
"Some of the drama that we've seen as far as increased cure rates with certain pediatric malignancies, has been based on improved chemo, improved radiation techniques," said Roberts.
He said for people like Havard, the news means hope that one day more people can call themselves survivors.
"The changes that we see with research are not dramatic like we would want, they're small changes," said Roberts. "But, if you make enough small changes you make a big dent."
"If you have something checked out and it turns out to be something like this, it's not necessarily death coming at you anymore," Havard said.
For that, Havard is thankful.
"I consider myself lucky," Havard said.
Since early detection is they key to curing cancer, Roberts said it's important to get your yearly checkups, whether they be mammograms or PSA blood screenings, and everyone over 50 should stay current with their colonoscopy schedule set by their doctor.