HealthDay News — Although the overall age-adjusted cancer incidence rate has declined over the past 10 years, the number of cancer survivors continues to grow in the United States, according to researchers.
The aging and growth of the population accompanied by improvements in early detection and treatment are major contributors to the increase in cancer survivorship.
As of 2014, almost 14.5 million Americans had a history of cancer, and the number of Americans with a history of cancer is projected to increase to almost 19 million by 2024, wrote Carol E. DeSantis, MPH, of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues.
In order to estimate the number of current and future cancer survivors in the United States, researchers used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program registries. Their findings were published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
The most common cancers among male patients are prostate cancer (43%), colorectal cancer (9%), and melanoma (8%). The most common cancers among female patients are breast cancer (41%), uterine corpus cancer (8%), and colon and rectum cancer (8%).
The majority of cancer survivors (64%) were diagnosed 5 or more years prior, and 15% were diagnosed 20 or more years prior. Nearly one-half of cancer survivors (46%) are aged 70 years or older, whereas only 5% are aged younger than 40 years. The age distribution of survivors varies substantially by cancer type, added researchers.
Primary-care practitioners have been identified as the main health-care provider to cancer survivors after primary cancer treatment, but the study authors caution this type of care comes with its own set of challenges.
Poor integration of survivorship care in the oncology and primary-care settings, lack of strong evidence-based guidelines for post-treatment care, and financial and other barriers to quality care, particularly among the medically underserved, were listed as some of the ongoing difficulties in treating patients with a history of cancer.
The ongoing surveillance and cancer screening, assessment and management of long-term and late effects of cancer and its treatment are among the recommendations offered to primary-care practitioners.
There is also an increased emphasis on disease self-management and the promotion of healthy lifestyles, such as avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy body weight, and being physically active.
“It is important for providers to understand the unique medical and psychosocial needs of survivors and be aware of resources that can assist patients, caregivers, and health care providers in navigating the various phases of cancer survivorship,” wrote the researchers.
“As the evidence base widens, efforts at the individual, provider, system, and policy levels should improve our ability to help cancer survivors live longer and healthier lives.”