Cancer patients in Korea living longer, survival rates show

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Cancer patients in Korea living longer, survival rates show

In 2000, Jeong Wol-yong, a 72-year-old former English professor from Seoul’s Gangseo District, was diagnosed with Stage 3 gastric cancer - and it was inoperable.

Jeong said he was devastated but couldn’t give up because of his children. He became determined to fight the cancer with the help of his doctor, Chung Hyun-cheol, head of the Yonsei Cancer Center.

Jeong received six months of drug treatment and two months of chemotherapy. He went on a high-protein diet and had beef tenderloin at every meal. After eight months, the tumor was gone.

“I’m living a far better life than before,” Jeong said.

People diagnosed with cancer in Korea are living longer than ever before, thanks to early detection, improved treatment and a willingness to fight the disease. In some hospitals, one out of two cancer patients survived more than 10 years. Even those approaching the terminal stages of cancer can be treated and live for years.

Severance Hospital’s Yonsei Cancer Center recently conducted a follow-up survey and found that 51.1 percent of 4,659 cancer patients diagnosed at the center in 2000 were still alive.

Not many cancer centers conduct 10-year survival rate surveys. In Korea, the National Cancer Center announces the survival rates of cancer patients every two years.

According to a recent report by the center, 10-year survival rates of terminal cancer patients reached 17.1 percent. Nearly half of those who were diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer also survived more than 10 years. Early stage cancer patients had a 10-year survival rate of 96.4 percent.

In Korea, there are five stages of cancer starting from 0 and ending with 4 as the terminal stage.

In the case of gastric and colon cancers, which are the most common types for Koreans, about 65.9 percent and 56.8 percent of Stage 3 cancer patients, respectively, fully recover.

But the survival rate of liver and lung cancer patients are relatively low. A patient diagnosed with Stage 1 or 2 liver cancer has a survival rate of 35.1 percent. Stage 1 and 2 lung cancer patients had a survival rate of 68.1 percent and 26.9 percent, respectively.

“Cancer patients should not be afraid of cancer as long as they receive good treatment and manage their body well,” said Chung from Yonsei’s Cancer Center. “They should never give up and get active treatment.”


By Park Yu-mi [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

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