Coral Levang, Contributing writer
More than 11.1 millions have a history of invasive cancer -- meaning they beat the disease.
In fact, the five-year survival rate for all cancer sufferers in 2004 was 66 percent, up from 50 percent in 1977.
The positive trend reflects the progress of earlier detection and diagnosis, as well as improved treatment options. While surgery, radiation and hormone therapy can sometimes be used to treat cancer, several drugs have shown effectiveness in fighting it.
Here are some of the most common.
Avastin, also known as bevacizumab, is used to treat cancers affecting the lung, breast, rectum or colon. It is usually used in conjunction with other drug treatments, according to WebMD.com.
Avastin inhibits the growth of a tumor by blocking the formation of new blood vessels. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 for metastatic colon and non-small-cell lung cancer and in 2008 for use in metastatic breast cancer, according to FDA.gov.
Avastin's most common side effects occurred in more than 10 percent of people, according to Avastin.com, and included headache, high blood pressure, nosebleeds, rectal bleeding, too much protein in the urine, dry skin, inflammation of the skin, taste changes and tear production disorder.
The Web site also reports that more severe side effects can include gastrointestinal perforation, problems with wound healing, and severe bleeding issues.
Taxotere (docetaxel) has proven to be the only treatment, in combination with the drug prednisone, that significantly prolongs the lives of men with androgen-independent metastatic prostate cancer, according to FDA.gov.
Taxotere has also been indicated in combination with other drugs for the treatment of some patients with gastric, head and neck, non-small cell lung and breast cancers. Taxotere works by attacking cancer cells, but it also can destroy healthy cells, which leads to side effects, according to Taxotere.com.
The most common severe side effects reported for Taxotere are anemia, low white blood cell count, diarrhea, fatigue, mouth and throat irritations, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, rash, infusion-site reactions, numbness, tingling, burning or weakness in the hands and feet, nail changes, muscle or bone pain, excessive tearing and fluid retention.
Tamoxifen (nolvadex) was approved in 1998 by the FDA and has been used to treat millions of men and women diagnosed with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer by interfering with how estrogen affects specific cells.
It is also known to reduce the risk of breast cancer in those who are at a greater risk of developing the disease, according to Cancer.gov. Because Tamoxifen affects estrogen activation, it might cause several serious side effects, including blood clots, stroke and endometrial cancer, according to BreastCancer.org.
The most common side effects are hot flashes, nausea, fatigue, headache, constipation, bone pain, mood swings, depression, dry skin and loss of libido. Some women also report memory and eye problems.
Herceptin (trastuzumab) is approved to treat HER2-positive, metastatic breast cancer and is generally used with other drugs, according to WebMD.com.
It works by blocking chemical signals on the surface of the cancer cell in order to stop uncontrolled growth. It is also being tested to determine its effects on other cancers. WebMD.com and Herceptin.com report that the most common side effects associated with Herception are fever, nausea, vomiting, infusion reactions, diarrhea, infections, increased cough, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, rash, low white and red blood cell counts, and muscle pain.
Abiraterone is a new drug still being studied for its effectiveness, but is shown to be effective against the hard-to-treat tumors of prostate cancer, according to WebMD.com.
Though still in the experimental stage, it seems to block the production of male hormones that trigger the growth of cancers in the prostate. It is reported that FDA approval is still several years away.
Because everyone is different, the side effects one may experience with any drug is not possible to predict with accuracy. Should you have any questions about any of these drugs or the side effects associated with them, talk to your physician.