Number of Cancer Survivors Expected to Grow by Millions

Cancer survivors estimated to increase by 5 million in next decade

(RxWiki News) As the US population gets older, more people are getting diagnosed with cancer. But more people are also surviving cancer. Getting a clearer picture of the future number of cancer survivors may help the healthcare community better serve these patients.

Cancer survivors are both patients still fighting cancer and those who are considered cancer-free. 

The American Cancer Society recently reported that the estimated number of cancer survivors in the United States would increase from 14.5 million to almost 19 million by 2024.

"Tell your doctor about the specific hardships you face as a survivor."

The lead author of this report was Carol E. DeSantis, MPH, from Surveillance and Health Services Research at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia.

The researchers used cancer treatment data from the National Cancer Data Base, the SEER-Medicare linked database and the SEER*Stat database.

As of January 1, 2014, there were an estimated 6,876,600 living male cancer survivors and 7,607,230 female cancer survivors in the United States.

The three most common cancers among the male survivors were prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and melanoma, accounting for 43 percent, 9 percent and 8 percent of the living surviving men.

Among the female survivors, the three most represented cancers were breast cancer (41 percent), uterine cancer (8 percent) and colorectal cancer (8 percent).

The authors estimated that the distribution of these most common cancers for both men and women would remain the same in 2024.

Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer and is the second most diagnosed type of cancer in both men and women. However, the disease has a very low survival rate, making it the eighth most represented cancer among cancer survivors living in 2014.

Dr. DeSantis and team found that 64 percent of current cancer survivors living in 2014 were diagnosed five or more years ago and 15 percent were diagnosed 20 or more years ago.

Only 5 percent of current cancer survivors were under 40 years old, while 46 percent were 70 years old and older.

The authors found that the age distribution of cancer survivors differed significantly according to type of cancer. For instance, 62 percent of prostate cancer survivors were aged 70 years and older compared with only 32 percent of melanoma survivors in that age group.

The report estimated that the population of cancer survivors in the United States will increase to around 19 million people — 9.3 million males and 9.6 million females — by January 1, 2024.

Each type of cancer comes with its own side effects and hardships, some that are short-term and some that are long-term. Therefore, according to the researchers, healthcare providers need to understand the unique medical and psychological needs of survivors and be able to provide adequate resources to help each specific type of cancer survivor.

"The growing number of cancer survivors in the US makes it increasingly important to understand the unique medical and psychosocial needs of survivors," DeSantis said in a press statement.

"Despite the fact that awareness of survivorship issues has increased, cancer survivors face numerous, important hurdles created by a fractured health care system, poor integration of survivorship care, and financial and other barriers to quality care, particularly among the medically underserved," she said. "An important first step in addressing these challenges is to identify 'best practices' for the delivery of quality post-treatment cancer care."

This report was published on June 1 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Review Date: 
May 31, 2014