A historic number of Americans — some 14.5 million — diagnosed with cancer are surviving the disease, and survivorship is expected to grow to 19 million by 2024, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society.
The findings, published in the Society's Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures, 2014-2015, show that multiple factors are responsible for increased survivorship, including better screening tools and treatments.
The report defines survivorship in numerous ways ranging from “living disease free for the remainder of life” to “anyone who's received a cancer diagnosis even if they have not yet completed treatment.”
The report points out that population growth and longer lifespans are adding to a record number of survivors now and are expected to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.
As Americans are living longer the number of new cancer survivors is expected to climb. Currently, almost half of all cancer survivors are aged 70 years or older, while 5 percent are under age 40.
Dr. Kevin Oeffinger, director of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Adult Long-Term Follow-Up Program told CBS News that this is “really exciting” news. "We actually are seeing more cancer survivors today than we had anticipated even a few years ago," he said.
Recent advancements in oncology, from targeted treatment to personalized medicine, are offering doctors and patients more treatment choices than ever before. And with more promising treatments on the horizon, cancer is becoming less death sentence and more something we live with.
“They're living longer and we hope with better quality of life," said Dr. Patricia Ganz. Ganz' research at University of California, Los Angeles focuses on quality-of-life issues.
“The goals of treatment are to 'cure' the cancer if possible and/or prolong survival and provide the highest possible quality of life during and after treatment,” the ACS report said.
However, the report pointed out that the best case scenario for the patient still comes at a cost: “Even cancer-free survivors must cope with the long-term effects of treatment that affect treatment and quality of life, as well as psychological concerns, such as fear of recurrence.”
Today, the five most common cancer types in women are breast (41 percent), uterine (8 percent), colorectal (8 percent), melanoma (7 percent) and thyroid (6 percent).
For men, the most common are prostate (43 percent), colorectal (9 percent), melanoma (8 percent), urinary bladder (7 percent) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (4 percent).
National Institutes of Health data modeling into 2024 show little percentage of change for either sex among these cancer types, although the number of survivors should increase.
Lung cancer, whose survival is ranked at eighth among U.S. men and women, is likely to remain among the most deadly cancer type, the report said. However, promising new therapies expected to be available in the next few years will renew hope for some patients.
The report did not include basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, or carcinoma in situ (non-invasive cancer) of any site except urinary bladder in its cancer survivor totals.
Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer and watersports junkie living in San Diego. In addition to writing about cancer for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in publications internationally.
Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures, 2014-2015. American Cancer Society.
Cancer Screening in the United States, 2014: A review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and current issues in cancer screening. Otis W. Brawley et al. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 64:1: pp30–51, January/February 2014.
More Americans Surviving Cancer than Ever. Jessica Firger. CBS News. June 2, 2014.
Reviewed July 8, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith