Report: Number of U.S. cancer survivors to grow to 18 million by 2022

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The number of Americans with a history of cancer will grow to almost 18 million by 2022, up from an estimated 13.7 million today, driven by improving cancer survival rates and a growing, aging population, according to a report from the American Cancer Society in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute.

The report and accompanying journal article published online June 14 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians are both based on data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database.

Created to highlight the challenges and opportunities to serve cancer survivors, the report underscores the importance of understanding the unique medical and psychosocial needs of survivors throughout the various phases of cancer survivorship, according to the American Cancer Society.

"Many survivors, even among those who are cancer free, must cope with the long-term effects of treatment, as well as psychological concerns such as fear of recurrence,” Elizabeth R. Ward, PhD, national vice president of Intramural Research for the American Cancer Society, said in a release. “As more people survive cancer, it is vital that healthcare providers are aware of the special needs of cancer patients and caregivers."

The most common cancers among men with a history of cancer are prostate cancer (43 percent), colorectal cancer (9 percent) and melanoma (7 percent). For women with a history of cancer, the most common types are breast cancer (41 percent), uterine cancer (8 percent) and colorectal cancer (8 percent). Those proportions will remain unchanged in 2022 despite the growth in total number of survivors, according to the report.

Other notable findings included:

  • Forty-five percent of cancer survivors are aged 70 years or older. Only 5 percent are younger than 40 years.
  • The median age of cancer patients at diagnosis is 66.
  • The majority (64 percent) of cancer survivors were diagnosed five or more years ago, while 15 percent were diagnosed 20 or more years ago.