WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - There is good news to report in the fight against cancer. The number of cancer survivors is increasing.
The number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024.
Dr. Andrew Schreiber of New Hanover Regional Medical Center says much of the credit goes to research and better treatments.
"People are living longer secondary to new forms of treatment, specifically oral forms of treatment, immunotherapy has increased the life expectancy of many of our patients," Schreiber said.
While the survival rate overall for people living with cancer has improved, there are cancers that remain the most challenging to treat.
The most difficult cancers to survive are stage four cancers of any type, especially pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers.
"Unfortunately with stage four cancers the number of survivors is in the low single digits and sometimes non-existent, but that's where we've seen a lot of our gains in treatment, where people are living much longer and have more tolerable treatments available that are helping them live a long and productive life increasing the quality of life as well," Schreiber explained.
The survival rate is especially good for patients who find breast cancer early.
According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage I breast cancer is close to 100 percent.
For women with stage II breast cancer, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 93 percent. The 5-year relative survival rate for stage III breast cancers is about 72 percent.