Progress in detecting and treating specific forms of cancer was an important subject for discussion at the Sixth National Cancer Conference in Denver, Colorado last September, a quadrennial meeting sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society and attended by physicians and scientists from this country and abroad. Of special interest was a report by the National Cancer Institute on how various forms of cancer have been treated by physicians over a quarter of a century and the results in terms of patient survival. The analysis by the Institute's End Results Group summarized data from more than a hundred participating hospitals on nearly 400,000 white patients diagnosed in the years 194(M9, 1950-64, 1955-59, and 1960-64.
Cancer of the colon and rectum occurs more frequently than any other form in the United States. Additional analysis of the data from the study disclosed that an increasing number of patients with this type of cancer are receiving treatment, primarily surgery. A striking increase was observed in survival of such patients for 5 years or longer after diagnosis of their disease. The 5-year survival rate for patients with cancer of the colon increased from 31 percent during 1940-49 to 46 percent during 1955-59. The comparable increase for patients with cancer of the rectum was from 28 to 40 percent. The survival rates for women were consistently higher than for men.
The increase in 5-year survival rates of patients with cancer of the colon and rectum is striking. More women than men are alive and well 5 years after their disease is diagnosed and all patients have an increased chance for survival if their malignancy is discovered while it is localized.
Five-year survival rates for patients with breast cancer have also gone up, slowly but steadily, and there was some indication of an increase in the number of patients diagnosed when their tumors were still confined to the breast. Scientists reporting these findings stressed that such patients would have to be followed for at least 10 years before it could be determined whether "early diagnosis" of breast cancer has resulted in a higher percentage of "cures".