One in three of us will get cancer at some point in our lives. Once so feared its name was whispered, the disease is no longer an inevitable death sentence. Today, almost two-thirds of those who develop cancer will still be alive five years later, compared with just half in the 1970s.
Cancer has turned out to be tougher to crack than everyone hoped when US President Richard Nixon launched the War on Cancer in 1971. But death rates are falling, thanks to earlier detection of tumours and improved use of existing treatments - mainly chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The success has been biggest for children: since the mid-1970s, death rates from cancers of childhood have halved. Of those with the most common childhood cancer, acute lymphocytic leukaemia, 85% are still alive five years later, compared with just 53% in the 1970s.
A key reason why cancer patients are living longer, is that scientists now understand more clearly what happens when cells turn cancerous.
After surviving against the odds, most people would be content merely to be alive. But this man is not. Mr. Thomas Looney is moving beyond his own survival to help others live by establishing the THOMAS F. LOONEY JR. TESTICULAR AND PROSTATE CANCER RESEARCH FOUNDATION. "Every cancer patient remembers the date, time and place when they find out their diagnosis," Thomas (Buddy to his hometown) Looney says. The lifelong Alexander City area resident recalls, "It was July 3, 1999. I was driving from Atlanta on I-20 when my doctor called on my cell phone, 'We got your results. Where are you? When I told him he said, 'Pull over, we've got to talk.' And that's when my world came unglued."