Who Are Cancer Survivors?
The term cancer survivor refers to a person who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis throughout his or her life. The impact of cancer on family members, friends, and caregivers of survivors is also acknowledged as part of survivorship.
How Many People Are Cancer Survivors?The National Cancer Institute recently estimated that 13.7 million people with a previous cancer diagnosis are living in the United States. People are living longer after a cancer diagnosis because of advances in early detection and treatment. About two out of every three people diagnosed with cancer are expected to live at least five years after diagnosis, but disparities in health care impact survival. Low-income men and women and members of minority groups who have little or no health insurance coverage are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages, when survival times are shorter.
Cancer survivors often face physical, emotional, psychosocial, spiritual, and financial challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. Public health professionals strive to address survivorship and quality of life issues such as the coordination of care, patient-provider communication, health promotion, support services, and fertility preservation through research and collaboration with public, non-profit, and private organizations. In light of these concerns, public health initiatives created to understand and prevent secondary disease, recurrence, and long-term effects of treatment are essential.
Promoting Health After a Cancer DiagnosisCancer survivors are at greater risk for recurrence and for developing second cancers due to the effects of treatment, unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, underlying genetics, or risk factors that contributed to the first cancer. The following factors can help maintain health and improve survival and quality of life after a cancer diagnosis.
- Quitting Tobacco Use
- Smoking is a preventable risk factor for cancer recurrence and additional cancers.
- Being Active and Maintaining a Healthy Weight
- Obesity may be related to poorer survival after breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer.
- Regular Physical Activity (at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week for adults) may improve quality of life after a cancer diagnosis.
- Discussing Follow up care with a Health Care Provider Important topics to discuss—
- A personalized survivorship care plan that includes a schedule of recommended follow-up visits, screenings, and medical tests and specifies which providers will be responsible for care.
- Possible delayed effects of treatment.
- The importance of seeking timely care in response to certain signs or symptoms.
- Emotional Wellness after cancer and identifying available resources for additional support, if necessary.
- Lifestyle changes recommended for improving health and well-being after cancer.
- Developing an effective support system that meets survivors’ medical and emotional needs