Since the war on cancer was launched in 1971, there has been a four-fold increase in the number of cancer survivors, from three million then to over twelve million now. Today, two-thirds of people told they have cancer will survive it.1 Yet the true cost of long-term cancer survivorship is not depicted in these numbers. How survivors live on, from a physical, psychological, family, social, and economic perspective, warrants additional attention and scrutiny.
In recognizing the paucity of information about cancer survivors' lives following the completion of active treatment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has implemented some changes to its public health surveillance initiatives.2 Through its partnerships with state-based health monitoring systems such as the National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR), the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (BRFSS), and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), cancer survivorship-specific questions have been added to these inventories.
Some questions will address survivors' perception of their quality of life, their fear of recurrence, the degree of emotional support available, and the economic impact of cancer. The CDC noted that the data will ultimately be useful in providing a national perspective on the experience of cancer survivors in the United States. The combined use of findings from these three surveillance systems will result in an unprecedented, comprehensive reflection of health, life, behaviors, and healthcare in relation to a non-cancer comparison population at both the state and national level.
While the big picture that the CDC offers results in a wide-scoping view of survivorship nationally, we must also remain cognizant of our community-based needs relative to the population we serve. So I ask you to consider, how does your cancer program attempt to capture your survivor population's needs during the important paradigm of life following active cancer treatment?
Shulman L.N., Jacobs L.A., Greenfield S., Jones B., McCabe M.S. et.al. (2009). Cancer care and cancer survivorship care in the United States: Will be able to care for these patients in the future? Journal of Oncology Practice, 5(3): 119-123.
Fairley T.L., Pollack L.A., Moore A.R. & Smith J.L. (2009). Addressing cancer survivorship through public health: An update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Journal of Women's Health, 18(10): 1525-1531.