According to projections published in theJournal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the number of people who have survived cancer will rise by 31% from 13.7 million today to nearly 18 million in 2022 (8.8 million males and 9.2 million females). The increased number of cancer survival is the result of the considerable progress that has been made in reducing cancer incidence. The review shows that among the 3 most prevalent cancers is in male cancer patients is prostate cancer (43%), colorectal (9%), and melanoma (7%). For women, cancer survivors includes breast (41%), uterine corpus (8%), and colorectal (8%).[1][2]These numbers are expected to remain largely unchanged.

The report further indicates that the majority of these cancer survivors (64%) were diagnosed five or more years ago and 15% were diagnosed 20 or more years ago. The median age at time of cancer diagnosis is 66. Nearly half (45%) of survivors are aged 70 or older; 5% are under the age of 40.

?The increase in the number of survivors will be due primarily to an aging of the population. By 2020, we expect that two-thirds of cancer survivors are going to be age 65 or older,? said Julia Rowland, Ph.D., director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The current report was based on an analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program and population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, both government-funded databases.[1][2]

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No Uniform Survival
In addition to providing estimates of future cancer survival trends, the report shows that survival is not uniform across cancer subtypes. Currently, women with breast cancer account for 22% of survivors, while men with prostate cancer make up 20%. People with lung cancer, the second most common cancer in terms of diagnosis, only represent 3% of survivors.

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?For patients with prostate cancer, we have a nearly 100% five-year survival rate, and breast cancer has made tremendous strides as well, with five-year survival rising from 75% in 1975 to almost 89% in 2012,? said Rowland. ?However, we clearly need to have better diagnostic tools and better treatments for lung cancer.?

According to Rowland, the increase in the cancer survivor population will present new challenges for the health care community. Patients diagnosed with cancer will likely have comorbid conditions that need to be managed, and Rowland estimates 16% will have had a previous malignancy.

Coping with Long-term Effects
Past research has shown that cancer survivors face health issues.Many survivors, even among those who are considered cancer free, must cope with the long-term effects of treatment, including post-traumatic stress, memory loss, infertility as well as psychological concerns such as fear of recurrence or new cancers. Cancer patients and survivors also face a variety of medical and social concerns dependent on their age, comorbid conditions, socioeconomic status, and family/support network.

?How to ensure that these patients lead not only long lives, but healthy and productive lives, will be a vital challenge to all of us,? said Rowland.

For more information
[1] American Cancer Society.Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Facts & Figures 2012-2013. American Cancer Society; 2012. Last accessed: March 25, 2013
[2] Siegel R, DeSantis C, Virgo K, Stein K, Mariotto A, Smith T, Cooper D, Gansler T, et al. Cancer treatment and survivorship statistics, 2012. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012; 62 (4), 220?241.

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