Number of cancer survivors to hit 18M by 2022

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There are currently approximately 13.7 million cancer survivors in the U.S., and that number is expected to rise to 18 million by 2022, according to the American Association for Cancer Research’s “Annual Report on Cancer Survivorship in the United States.”

“Over the next decade, prevalence across the survivorship trajectory is projected to increase as a result of increasing cancer incidence rates associated with the aging of the population and improvements in long-term survival rates,” wrote Julia Rowland, PhD, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues.

The report was published online March 27 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Results were based on an analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program database and population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Increases in the number of people diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes are caused by two complementary phenomena, according to Rowland and colleagues. The first is improving cancer survival rates, driven by advances in early detection and treatment of cancer.

More significant, however, is the aging of the population, explained the authors. Two-thirds of all cancer survivors will be age 65 or older by 2020. Sixty-four percent of the current survivor population has survived five years or more after diagnosis, with this number projected to increase approximately 37 percent over the next decade.

Survival is not uniform across cancer subtypes, with breast cancer and prostate cancer survivors accounting for 22 percent and 20 percent of survivors, respectively. People with lung cancer make up only 3 percent of survivors, despite it being the second most common cancer in terms of diagnosis.

The report also made five recommendations for improving understanding and addressing the medical, psychosocial and practical needs of cancer survivors:

  • Identify effective and efficient models for delivering long-term follow up care;
  • Develop the infrastructure to collect long-term clinical, psychosocial and behavioral data from adult cancer survivors;
  • Optimize health IT and other technologies that facilitate care coordination and improve survivors’ long-term health outcomes;
  • Address important knowledge gaps about long-term survivors; and
  • Improve integrative palliative care.

“Progress in these areas is critical to achieving optimal clinical, cost, quality of life and satisfaction with care outcomes,” wrote Rowland and colleagues.