The way we think about cancer is outdated. Here’s how to change that.

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The way we think about cancer is outdated. Here’s how to change that.

Cancer is no longer a death sentence. Increasingly, cancer is more similar to chronic conditions such as diabetes.

When Susan Thornton was 30, she noticed a flat red rash in a small band around her waist. It was itchy and terribly persistent. No cream or lotion made it go away.

One year and half a dozen dermatologists later, she was diagnosed with mycosis fungoides, a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that’s often mistaken for eczema or psoriasis in its early stages.

Twenty-five years later, Thornton’s cancer is still around. It persists mostly as a manageable rash, treated with a topical steroid. At certain points the disease has flared up, requiring more drastic treatments. By 1998, the cancer had progressed to tumors, with scaly, itchy splotches spreading all over her body. It took a series of electron beam radiation treatments to knock it back, she says, “melting the tumors away.”

Thornton’s cancer has been under control since her last radiation treatment five years ago. Still, it’s never completely gone, never cured — instead, it’s just something she lives with.

Most days, the Philadelphia native feels great. She participates in triathlons every year and travels the world for work as the CEO of the Cutaneous Lymphoma Foundation. “I don’t know why, but I’m one of the lucky ones,” she says.

This sounds like a remarkable feel-good story. But it’s actually an increasingly common cancer experience. The cancer death rate has dropped by 23 percent since 1991, with some even larger gains in types of cancer that used to be extremely lethal. This means there are more and more patients like Thornton who are neither dying from cancer nor defeating it entirely. Instead, they’re learning to live with it.

Read Full Article: The way we think about cancer is outdated. Here’s how to change that. – Vox

 

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