On cancer’s frontlines, a huge boost in survivorship
A whopping 20 percent increase in cancer survivorship in just six years, according to latest government statistics
Advances in treatment and early detection means curable disease for some, chronic illness for others
By Ignacio Lobos, Hutchinson Center External Communications Editor
In two recent issues of Quest, a Hutchinson Center publication, our science writers put together major reports on the progress being made against cancers affecting men and women, with pivotal contributions from our very own Center researchers. In an upcoming issue of Quest, we take up the banner of survivorship once again to celebrate the progress being made nationally and abroad against cancer.
It’s a timely topic—with plenty of reasons for optimism. Yes, cancer is a mighty foe, but researchers continue to find better ways to detect it earlier, and in many cases beat it outright. And that means a greater number of survivors among us, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute this week.
“It’s good news that so many are surviving cancer and leading long, productive, and healthy lives,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said in a press release to announce a study’s latest survivorship statistics. “Preventing cancer and detecting it early remain critically important as some cancers can be prevented or detected early enough to be effectively treated.”
According to the CDC/NCI study, the number of cancer survivors in the United States increased to 11.7 million in 2007 from 9.8 million in 2001. That number is expected to reach 14 million this year, with as many as 20 million survivors by 2020.
According to the study:
- Of the nearly 12 million people living with cancer in 2007, 7 million were ages 65 years or older
- At 54 percent, women make up a large proportion of cancer survivors
- Breast cancer survivors are the largest group of cancer survivors (22 percent), followed by prostate cancer survivors (19 percent) and colorectal cancer survivors (10 percent)
- Among all survivors, nearly 5 million received their diagnosis 10 or more years earlier
The numbers, of course, don’t tell the whole story. As we have reported in Quest and here at Petri Dish, survivorship issues are complex. And that’s why there are increasing efforts to improve cancer survivors’ quality of life.
For one of our upcoming survivorship stories, we talked to Dr. Julia Rowland, director of the NCI’s Office of Cancer Survivorship, who told us, “If you’re going to cure someone of this disease, you want to be sure they have a life worth living.”
In the CDC media release, she said, “There is now a growing number of people who have faced a cancer diagnosis which affects them and their loved ones—from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their lives.
“Unfortunately for many cancer survivors and those around them, the effect of cancer does not end with the last treatment. Research has allowed us to scratch the surface of understanding the unique risks, issues, and concerns of this population. This report underscores the need for continued research, as well as for the development and implementation of best practices to provide optimal care and support for all cancer survivors.”
Some of the factors behind the higher number of survivors:
- A growing aging population
- Early detection
- Improved diagnostic methods
- More effective treatment
- Improved clinical follow-up after treatment
What this means, in part, is that soon all of us will know someone battling this disease. And certainly, we are reminded of the risks we all face. That’s why Frieden of the CDC had a word of advice: “Not smoking, getting regular physical activity, eating healthy foods, and limiting alcohol use can reduce the risk of many cancers.”
Do you know someone battling cancer? Are you taking steps to reduce your risk of getting the disease? And how do you feel about the progress being made against cancer? Send us a note and we’ll publish your thoughts.