As the number of cancer survivors in America steadily grows, a new report – Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Statistics, 2016 – charts the makeup of this unique group of people. The report gives hope and points the way for the future of ongoing survivor care.

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The number of cancer survivors in America is estimated to reach 20 million by 2026.

Although cancer rates are declining in men and stable in women, the number of cancer survivors is slowly increasing year on year.

This is partly because early detection of cancer and its treatment has improved; it is also because the general population is living longer and growing.

This section of the community has specific needs. Some need specific types of treatment; others are living with the long-term physical and psychological effects. Others still face financial and social hardships.

To understand the size of this group, the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute collaborate every 2 years to produce a report.

As the authors state: “Despite increasing awareness of survivorship issues and the resiliency of cancer survivors, many challenges remain.”

The teams aimed to analyze the number of current cancer survivors and predict the levels that society can expect in the future. The authors use the term “cancer survivor” to refer to anyone who has received a diagnosis and is still living. The results are published this week in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The most common cancers that men have survived in 2016 are:

  • Prostate – 3,306,760
  • Colorectal – 724,690
  • Melanoma – 614,460

The most common cancers that women have survived in 2016 are:

  • Breast – 3,560,570
  • Uterine corpus – 757,190
  • Colorectal – 727,350

On January 1, 2016, 15.5 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive. By January 1, 2026, this number is projected to rise to more than 20 million.

It is worth noting that the survivor numbers above do not necessarily relate to each cancer’s prevalence in the population. For instance, lung cancer survivors are the eighth largest group of survivors, but lung cancer is actually the second most common diagnosis. This is because lung cancer has particularly poor survival rates.

In the United States, one third of cancer survivors received diagnosis less than 5 years ago, and 56 percent were diagnosed within the last 10 years.

Almost half of cancer survivors are aged 70 or older (47 percent), but the age range varies among cancer types. For instance, 64 percent of prostate cancer survivors are 70 or older, whereas 37 percent of melanoma survivors fit that age range.

Around 75 percent of breast cancer survivors (more than 2.6 million women) are over 60 years old, and just 7 percent are younger than 50.

At the other end of the age scale, 65,190 cancer survivors are under 14, and 47,180 are aged 15-19. Another 10,380 aged 14 or younger will receive a cancer diagnosis in 2016. The most common cancers in children are as follows:

The most common cancers in adolescents are:

  • Brain and central nervous system – 20 percent
  • Leukemia – 14 percent
  • Hodgkin lymphoma – 13 percent

These details are important for the shaping of medical and social care in the future. The authors say:

Although there are a growing number of tools that can assist patients, caregivers, and clinicians in navigating the various phases of cancer survivorship, further evidence-based resources are needed to optimize care.”

For most cancer patients, quality of life takes a substantial hit during treatment. However, many side effects are short-lived, and the majority of survivors report a good quality of life 1 year after treatment has ended.

Longer-term side effects vary with the type of cancer and treatment, age, sex, and any other diseases that occur at the same time as the cancer.

Although huge steps have been taken to improve aftercare and support for cancer survivors, both physically and psychologically, more needs to be done. According to the authors, the problems include: “a fractured healthcare system, poor integration of survivorship care between oncology and primary care settings, lack of strong evidence-based guidelines for post-treatment care, and financial and other barriers to quality care.”

The researchers refer to the ongoing efforts of the American College of Surgeons, the Alliance for Quality Psychosocial Cancer Care, and the American Cancer Society in regard to refining cancer survivor aftercare. The details afforded in this report promise to further improve the current offering available for cancer survivors.

Learn more about young female cancer survivors and infertility.