American Cancer Society: 100 Years Old Today

It would seem rather strange to say, “Happy birthday, American Cancer Society!” on the day that it turns 100 years old. As other not-for-profit organisations of all stripes fall by the wayside, it’s simultaneously an accomplishment to have lasted this long to carry out its mission, and disheartening to see that far too many of us are still touched by cancer, thereby warranting the need for an organisation such as this to exist at all.

American Cancer Society: the "official sponsor of birthdays", turns 100 years old todayAccording to Charity Navigator, an independent, not for profit organisation that evaluates American charities, the “American Cancer Society was founded in 1913 by 15 well-known doctors and business leaders in New York City, the American Cancer Society (ACS) is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. The American Cancer Society consists of a National Home Office with 13 chartered Divisions throughout the United States and a presence in most communities. More than two million volunteers carry out the Society’s mission of eliminating cancer and improving quality of life for those individuals facing the disease.”

It’s the largest voluntary health organisation in the United States. Quite admirable!

Over the past 100 years since the organisation’s inception there have been many breakthroughs in cancer research. At one point, cancer was not discussed very much publicly, but as silence about the persistent disease fell by the wayside, attention and resources devoted to preventative measures and finding a cure have brought about medical and scientific progress. Over time, those advances have led to an overall rate of two out of three people diagnosed with cancer today surviving the disease for at least five years. Here’s a timeline in the fight to end cancer.

The Mayo Clinic notes that when cancer survival levels are calculated five-year time frames are used but that doesn’t mean that cancer can’t recur beyond five years. Treatments for the wide array of cancers include radiation therapy, extensive drug treatments and less mainstream but more controversial alternative medicines. Large pharmaceutical companies have developed drugs that cause tumors to shrink and they have made strides towards developing vaccines but cancer is still deadly because of its complexity and ability to change. In other words, because cancer can recur many years after successful treatment, the need for organisations such as the ACS is as great as ever.

Cancer isn’t a partisan issue; it affects without discrimination or thought to its victims affiliations. It’s the unfortunate tie that binds and gives many of us common ground upon which to stand. Thanks to all of the volunteers, doctors and scientists who do what they do in the fight to eradicate cancer.