America has had a war on poverty, a war on drugs and now a war on terrorism. Declarations of victory have not been so easy to achieve as those battles continue to wear on.
But one war America is winning is the war on cancer, first declared by President Nixon in 1971. Since an initial $100 million investment in research then, hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into this fight, and the result has been an incredible advancement in the state of cures and treatments — all in little more than a generation.
Fewer people of dying of cancer — the rate of decline has almost doubled. Medical experts predict additional success in the near future, with the rate of cancer deaths being half of what it is now by 2015.
Deaths from breast cancer have been falling during the past two decades. Research and treatment have played a pivotal role in this statistic, but so has the educational effort that has resulted in behavioral changes and a more thoughtful approach to hormone treatment for menopausal women.
Prevention and early detection have also become crucial weapons in the war against cancer. Antismoking campaigns are credited with a decline in lung cancer deaths among men. And early screening has resulted in fewer people dying of the No. 2 cause — colorectal screening.
Cancer remains a grave threat, and the second leading cause of death in America. Almost 600,000 deaths are expected from cancer this year. It is the word that adults of almost every age fear most whenever they notice something unusual happening with their bodies. But modern medicine is indeed gaining the upper hand. That anticipated number is 12,000 fewer than those who died last year.
One of the 16 proposed constitutional amendments Texas voters are considering in the Nov. 6 election involves the creation of a fund that would provide $300 million over the next 10 years to fund cancer research programs within the state. Supporters say this proposition could make Texas the center of cancer research in the next decade, and provide an environment that could possibly lead to the ultimate goal — either a cure or a preventive medication. Some oppose Amendment No. 15 because they say public money should not be used for such purposes, but that question is now in the hands of the voters. An overwhelming majority of state officials are supporting this initiative.
Whatever the Texas people decide, the breakthrough medical science and hundreds of thousands of patients have for generations dreamed of reaching is closer than ever. And as that day nears, our best efforts at prevention, detection and treatment continue with incredible success.