Many studies focus on cancer death rates; however, one recently released study projects an increase in cancer survival rates. As of January 2012, there are approximately 13.7 million cancer survivors living in the United States, and this study expects that number to increase to nearly 18 million by 2022.
This increase, the study authors suggest, is not only due to improved prevention strategies and treatments, but also due to our growing and aging population. The higher survival numbers are especially apparent among breast cancer and prostate cancer survivors, 22% and 20% of the survivors respectively. However, those with lung cancer, one of the deadliest cancers, only account for 3% of the survivors.
The authors technically defined a cancer “survivor” to be someone who has received a diagnosis of cancer and is undergoing treatment. However, the number of those who have lived more than 5 or 15 years after their diagnosis is also expected to increase.
Though this is good news for medical science, this still poses a challenge to how we implement health care for this growing population. Cancer survivors have special medical needs — especially psychological care and pain management. Two-thirds of this population will be 65 and older. This increase could trigger cancer drug shortages and potentially overload available oncologic services. The growth in survivors will also drive up the overall cost of cancer care an estimated 27% by 2020.
Despite the projected strain on our health-care system, the improvement in cancer screening protocols and treatments seem to be succeeding. Some forms of cancer — once considered a death sentence — may become a manageable diagnosis. Now, 90% of those diagnosed with breast cancer will survive for 5 years or longer.
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