The American Cancer Society estimates that there are about 15.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. right now. That number includes survivors of all types of cancer. A new report predicts that number will increase to over 20 million by 2026. The statistic is a hopeful one, as it indicates that an increasing number of people will overcome the disease. In fact, rates of cancer incidence (or people being diagnosed) have been decreasing over the last 10 years, and yet the number of survivors has still been increasing.
Researchers attribute this trend to early detection efforts and the advent of more effective treatments. The study has drawn attention to the importance of creating programs and support groups geared toward survivors. Additionally, researchers note that health care will have to change to help people who beat the disease continue to live full and healthy lives and prevent cancer from coming back.
“The growing number of cancer survivors in the U.S. makes it increasingly important to understand the unique medical and psychosocial needs of survivors,” says Carol DeSantis, MPH, American Cancer Society epidemiologist and lead author of the 2014 report that predicted nearly 19 million survivors by 2014. “Despite the fact that awareness of survivorship issues has increased, cancer survivors face numerous, important hurdles created by a fractured health care system, poor integration of survivorship care, and financial and other barriers to quality care, particularly among the medically underserved. An important first step in addressing these challenges is to identify ‘best practices’ for the delivery of quality post-treatment cancer care.”
As research continues to find the best ways to encourage post-cancer patients to receive medical care and keep themselves healthy, the number of survivors is expected to continue to grow, both due to a longer life expectancy for cancer survivors, and because more cancer survivors are being “created” every day by new and more effective treatments. Hooray for science!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?