According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are nearly 12 million cancer survivors—anyone who has ever had cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their life —living in the United States today. This shows an increase from 9.8 million in 2001 and 3 million in 1971. About half of these people were diagnosed with breast, prostate, or colorectal cancers. In addition, many are long-term survivors—4.7 million were diagnosed 10 or more years ago.
“We can attribute this increase in cancer survivorship to several factors, including earlier detection as well as more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatments,” says Roy Williams, Oncologist at PinnacleHealth.
“With so many people surviving the disease, clinicians and researchers are now focusing more efforts on studying long-term outcomes as well as providing appropriate follow-up care and services to address quality-of-life issues,” adds Paul Engstrom, M.D., senior vice president of extramural research programs at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
Some of the challenges facing survivors are medical issues such as permanent side effects of treatment, the possibility of second cancers caused by treatment, and the need for long-term medical follow-up. But survivors also face emotional and social challenges, such as dealing with the effects of their cancer experience on their personal relationships and coping with the possibility of their cancer coming back. There are also practical issues, such as health insurance and financial concerns.
Survivorship is a key component of the continuum of cancer care. In fact, the National Cancer Institute has an Office of Cancer Survivorship that is dedicated to enhancing the length and quality of life of survivors, addressing their unique needs, and providing support for survivorship research. Many cancer centers, including Fox Chase, offer survivorship clinics to provide care and services to cancer survivors, and community organizations, such as LIVESTRONG and the American Cancer Society, offer information and resources on survivorship.
PinnacleHealth is a non-profit healthcare system serving Central Pennsylvania. The healthcare network includes four campuses (Community, Cumberland, Harrisburg and Polyclinic), FamilyCare physician practices, home health and hospice services, outpatient surgery and imaging centers, inpatient and outpatient care and an array of other healthcare services. For a complete list of services, visit our website at http://www.pinnaclehealth.org/