The number of cancer survivors in the United States increased from 3 million in 1971 to 11.7 million in 2007, according to a new study released today by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
A cancer survivor is defined as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his or her life.
While cancer remains a major public health problem — as the nation’s second leading killer only to heart disease – cancer death rates among both men and women are continuing to decline, according to the American Cancer Society.
Timothy Moynihan, M.D., a Mayo Clinic oncologist and survivorship expert, offers additional perspective on the multiple factors that have contributed to the increase in cancer survivorship:
“Some of this may be due to screening programs and earlier detection, leading to improvement in cure and overall survival. Improvements in cancer treatment — including improved surgical techniques, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, molecularly targeted therapy and use of neoadjuvant and adjuvant treatments — have all contributed. In addition, attempts to prevent recurrences after surgical treatment for many cancers (such as breast, colon, and lung) by using post-operative adjuvant therapy has increased survival. Enhanced supportive care with improved management of side effects from the cancer and from the therapy have also likely contributed,” he says.
As more individuals continue to manage this chronic disease, there has been an increased need for resources for survivors and caregivers to manage the physical, emotional, psychosocial and financial impacts of cancer.
In Rochester, Minn., Mayo Clinic’s Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Education Center offers a variety of cancer resources. The center offers complimentary classes and sessions — from expert lectures to wellness workshops — and its American Cancer Society patient navigators and nurse educators are available to help patients and their caregivers navigate through the cancer experience, including answering questions and connecting to local resources. In addition, the center is home to one of the largest resource collections in the world.
Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida has a patient resource room, staffed by American Cancer Society-trained volunteers, and the Arizona campus has a Patient Health and Education Library, home to an American Cancer Society patient navigator.
Mayo Clinic’s popular Living with Cancer blog and e-newsletter are also available for survivors and their caregivers around the world to connect to other survivors — and become active partners in their health care.