Cancer Survivors Celebrate

Mayo Clinic Expert Shares Update

More than 200 cancer survivors, supporters, doctors, nurses and NorthBay Cancer Center staff turned out Sunday, June 3, to celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day at Rancho Solano Country Club.

It was the 22nd year that NorthBay has hosted the festivities, and the first time that a Mayo Clinic expert was on hand to provide an update on cancer treatments. Scott Okuno, M.D., a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic, explained how far oncologists and researchers have come in their ability to stem cancer's advancement and boost survivorship since the "War on Cancer" was first launched in 1971, and re-invigorated in 2016.

"Even 20 years ago we didn't have the treatments that we have today, and we only had a handful of drugs that we used for everything; so far this year alone four new drugs have been approved by the FDA," Dr. Okuno said.

He also noted that the number of cancer survivors will increase from 15 million to 26 million by the year 2040 for several reasons.

Not only are we gaining a better understanding of what makes various cancers occur, but there's an increased emphasis on the value of early detection and screening, such as through PAP smear tests and colonoscopies. Vaccinations for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B reduce the risk of cervical and liver cancers. And, people have a better understanding of how lifestyle choices - to exercise more, maintain a healthy body weight, use sun screen, limit alcohol intake and stop smoking - will help boost cancer survivorship even further, he noted.

Organized by NorthBay Cancer Center's Charlene Thompson, cancer data coordinator, and Keni Horiuchi, nurse navigator, the program also featured four "Speaking from the Heart" presentations by NorthBay cancer patients Don Roberts, Cordelia Fox, Petra Pohl and David Lew. The speakers - who have been coping with cancer anywhere from six months to 41 years - shared messages of hope and even the value of humor.

Brian Vikstrom, M.D., hematologist/oncologist at the NorthBay Cancer Center, kicked off the program with a presentation on prostate cancer.

It's an exciting time for cancer care, Dr. Vikstrom stressed.

"Every year there are a dozen new options for treatments and they have a tremendous impact on our patients' lives. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to have access to all these new options to care for my patients."