BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — According to Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute Medical Director Dr. Andrew Salner, there were 17 million cancer survivors in 2019. By 2030, there should be 22 million.

The cancer five-year survival rate has gone from 49% in 1975 to close to 70% today, according to oncologists.

Nicole Brustman of North Branford’s leg swelled up and she was diagnosed with a blood clot. Doctors at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport then did extensive scanning.

“They found this tumor on my pancreas. They were not quite sure what type of tumor it was. It turned out to be a neuroendocrine tumor,” Brustman said.

She underwent a Whipple procedure, which is extensive surgery to remove part of her pancreas.

“How fortunate I was and how lucky I was that after going undergoing this big surgery, that I was not in any need of any chemo or radiation. I was very, very fortunate,” Brustman said.

She is now a survivor.

Dr. Vipra Sharma, an oncologist at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, said early detection and cutting edge technologies are keeping more patients alive, longer.

“We’re using chemotherapy in combination with newer agents. We have newer agents such as target therapy, immunotherapy, which are just more effective and helping patients live longer,” Sharma said.

She said there are many types of targeted therapies. Some look at a mutation causing the cancer.

“If we target this mutation, we can kind of turn off that switch,” she said.

She explains the goal in cancer treatment that is evolving now.

“These are pills that patients can take and some of these medications end up becoming like a chronic pill they’ll take just like they take their blood pressure medication or the diabetes medication.”

Brustman is relieved she listened to her body’s symptoms and sought medical attention immediately.

“I went to the doctor and they found it and we took care of it, and the doctors were wonderful. I’m just very, very lucky, extremely lucky and fortunate.”

Doctors say basic ways to lower your risk of developing cancer include:

  • Weight management
  • Smoking/tobacco cessation
  • Physical activity of 150 minutes per week with exercise at least five days per week
  • A weight management program for those who are overweight
  • A diet more plentiful in fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains with less focus on carbohydrates, red meat and fat
  • Participating in regular cancer screenings as suggested by the care team
  • Protecting the skin from the sun and ultraviolent rays