Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs Group, announced Tuesday he has a “highly curable” form of lymphoma and plans to undergo chemotherapy treatments.
Despite the diagnosis, Blankfein — a high-profile executive who has often provided financial support to Democratic candidates in presidential elections, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — doesn’t intend to slow down much. He plans to continue leading his firm and maintaining a considerable workload, albeit cutting back a little on his traveling.
“Cancer” is an alarming word, but our fear of this disease obscures big differences in the cure and survival rates of different types of cancer. What is it, exactly, that would make lymphoma “highly curable” and allow Blankfein to face his diagnosis with optimism?
Here are some basic facts about lymphoma (and other cancers like it):
- Lymphoma is just one among a set of cancers that affect the bone marrow, blood cells, lymph nodes, or other parts of the lymphatic system. Other cancers in this group include leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
- Lymphoma itself breaks into two different categories, Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the sixth most common cancer in the United States.
- The survival rate for Hodgkin lymphoma has increased from 40 percent in 1960 to 88 percent in 2010. For non-Hodgkin lymphoma, it’s risen from 31 percent to 71 percent. More recent data about survival rates tends to underestimate the possibility of survival because it’s difficult to fully represent the wide variety of cancer therapies and treatments currently available.
- Your changes of survival increase the earlier you are diagnosed with the disease. In fact, the five-year survival rate for Hodgkin lymphoma is now close to 94 percent for people who were 45 years old or younger when they were diagnosed.
- Doctors and scientists now consider Hodgkin lymphoma to be one of the most curable forms of cancer.
But it isn’t just lymphoma that is taking a beating from new treatments and advances in medicine. Research from genetics and immunology now allows doctors to tailor treatments to a patient’s specific genes and teach the immune system to destroy malignant inflammations.
Pharmacology has also made great strides in creating medicines that can shrink certain types of tumors. Another treatment, called T-cell therapy, allows doctors to replace malignant white blood cells in patients with leukemia with genetically altered, healthy cells. This treatment has also been effective for types of breast and prostate cancer.
In addition to new treatments, research has also increased our understanding of how general healthy living habits can lower your chances of getting cancer in the first place. According to the American Cancer Society, “one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States each year are linked to diet and physical activity, including being overweight or obese.”
Tobacco products cause another third of the deaths. Eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats (meaning no trans fats) will reduce the risk of cancer as well as other serious illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The fiber in the raw fruits and vegetables helps to move food through the digestive tract and prevent colorectal cancers and types of stomach and mouth cancers.
Cancer has been one of the biggest black eyes on our national health record for a long time. And it’s still a daunting diagnosis. But while the disease still triggers anxiety for many of us, there’s a lot we can do to be healthy—and stay healthy.
Here are some guidelines on a healthy diet, as suggested by the American Cancer Society:
- Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.
- Read food labels to become more aware of portion sizes and calories consumed.
- Eat smaller portions of high-calorie foods.
- When you eat away from home, choose food low in calories, fat, and sugar, and avoid consuming large portion sizes.
- Limit consumption of processed and red meats, choosing instead fish, poultry or beans.
- If you eat red meat, select lean cuts and eat smaller portions.
- Include vegetables and fruits at every meal and for snacks.
- Choose whole-grain instead of refined-grain products.
- Limit consumption of other refined-carbohydrate foods, including pastries, candy, sugar-sweetened cereals, and other high-sugar foods.