Number of U.S. cancer survivors grows to nearly 12 million, underscores need for survivorship care

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The number of cancer survivors in the United States increased to 11.7 million in 2007, according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This is a nearly 20 percent increase in cancer survivors from 2001.

The report, published today in the March 11 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, defined a cancer survivor as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his or her life.

An increase in the early detection of cancers, improved diagnostic methods, and advances in cancer treatments have resulted in more people surviving their cancer, said Lisa Diller, MD, co-director of the Perini Family Survivors' Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

"However, we know that cancer treatments can cause a host of immediate and late-stage health issues, so it is important that we provide survivors with the care and follow-up they will need to live healthy lives," she added.

To that end, Dana-Farber established the David B. Perini Jr. Quality of Life Clinic in 1993 to offer survivors of pediatric cancer post-treatment, follow-up care, including counseling and monitoring of long-term side effects of treatment. It founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation Adult Survivorship Program in 2004 and later the Perini Family Survivors' Center, which is composed of the two survivorship programs and the Stop & Shop Family Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Outcomes Clinic.

Dana-Farber also created an online resource to provide cancer survivors with information and videos on a wide array of topics and issues, including establishing a care plan after treatment, dealing with the emotional aftermath of cancer treatment, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle post-cancer. The website also offers links to organizations that address issues associated with employment, legal rights, health insurance, and medical assistance.

The authors of the CDC report project that the number of cancer survivors will continue to increase. This, Diller said, underscores the importance of caregivers and policy makers focusing on issues unique to cancer survivors.

"When five percent of individuals in the United States are cancer survivors," she said, "we need to think carefully about how to provide them high-quality health care in the community, to assure that they have access to health insurance, and that their medical needs are skillfully addressed by their providers, who are likely not oncologists."

For the full report, view the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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