UNDATED (WAOW) -- Not long ago, a cancer diagnosis felt like a death sentence but not anymore. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are surviving and living with cancer.
Numbers just released from the federal government show one in 20 American adults is now a cancer survivor -- almost 12 million of us.
Dr. Thomas Frieden the director of the Center for Disease Control says, "Life doesn't have to end with cancer. If you get a diagnosis of cancer, there's a lot you can do to ensure that you live a long healthy, productive life as much as possible."
And that is exactly what the figures show: nearly two out of three survivors people like Anne Tonashel, who was treated five years ago for ovarian cancer.
She says, "I'm extraordinarily fortunate that I had great treatment."
Medical advancements and especially early detection are credited with the good news but the CDC also found startling differences between men and women. More than half of all the cancer survivors were female. One theory - breast cancer is now being detected and treated earlier.
At Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, cancer survivors are helping survivors. Judith Mathews is being treated with breast cancer. She is paired with nurse Mary Capano herself a breast cancer survivor.
"It is the fear if the unknown that will really gnaw at you for days and days but having someone able to sit down and talk to you like that was very comforting." says Mathews.
But for every cancer survivor, there's a network of family members and caregivers - "co-survivors" - helping and sharing in this fight.
For Anne Tonashel it is her husband Richard.
He says, "It was stress for me because I couldn't do anything and nothing was being done for me. The caregiver feels helpless."
Studies confirm that caregivers themselves are at greater risk of illness which is why more and more hospitals are now providing counseling services to family members of cancer patients.