The American Cancer Society has released their latest addition to its facts and figures publication called “Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Facts & Figures”. Defining a cancer survivor as anyone still alive after being diagnosed with cancer, the report goes on to predict that the number of Americans with a history of cancer will rise by a third over the next decade, hitting some 18 million by 2022.

Some of the growth is down to increasing population while the number of elderly people also add to the figure, as the incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age, and although cancer cases are generally on the decline, those surviving are increasing. Nearly half of all Americans over 70 are cancer survivors, while this number drops to only 5% for those under 40.

Obviously, survivors of cancer have differing healthcare needs and it’s therefore important for the medical community to be aware of this, and a recent survey of doctors, showed that over 90% of them were not aware of the long term side effects of chemotherapy drugs. The report served to highlight the barriers patients face after their cancer treatment.

Elizabeth R. Ward, national vice president of Intramural Research and senior author of the latest report said:

“Many survivors, even among those who are cancer free, must cope with the long-term effects of treatment, as well as psychological concerns such as fear of recurrence. As more people survive cancer, it is vital that health care providers are aware of the special needs of cancer patients and caregivers.”

While lung cancer remains a deadly killer, men are surviving prostate, colorectal and melanoma while for women, most survivors have suffered, breast, uterine or colorectal cancer. There are also nearly 60,000 childhood cancer survivors in the US, and more than 12,000 children will be diagnosed with a form of cancer in 2012.

The report goes on to give helpful advice on choosing a facility to treat cancer, also includes information on survival, and the most common health concerns of survivors for 11 selected cancers. Also included are sections on the effects of cancer and its treatment, palliative care, long-term survivorship, concerns of caregivers and families, and the benefits of healthy behaviors. Looking into the problems that survivors face the report gives a breakdown of common side effects of cancer treatments. These include pain, fatigue, and emotional distress. Other conditions that may occur months or even years after cancer treatment has been completed are also discussed.

The Society report serves to highlight its commitment to cancer survivors and their families. Cancer survivors, caregivers, health care professional interested in learning more about cancer treatment and survivorship, and even friends and family of cancer patients would benefit from reading the report in detail.

Written by Rupert Shepherd