The proportion of cancer survivors in the United States is projected to grow by 31% by the year 2022, with attendant increases in long-term medical, psychosocial, and practical needs among this population, according to the second annual report on cancer survivorship from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

“Owing to advances in early detection and cancer treatment, people are living longer after a cancer diagnosis, giving rise to a growing proportion of long-term survivors,” affirmed Julia H. Rowland, PhD, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, and coauthors in the report, published in the AACR journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (2013;22[4]:561-570). “A multipronged approach is essential to address the needs of cancer survivors across the survivorship trajectory.”

Rowland and colleagues reviewed national cancer incidence and survival data from 1975 through 2007 and used a prevalence-incidence model to estimate cancer prevalence for 2012 and beyond. They found that approximately 13.7 million cancer survivors were living in the United States as of January 1, 2012, with prevalence projected to approach 18 million by 2022.

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Among the current survivors, 64% were at least 5 years past diagnosis, 40% were at least 10 years past diagnosis, and 15% were at least 20 years past diagnosis. The pool of 5-year survivors is projected to increase by approximately 37% to 11.9 million over the next decade.

With such growth in store, noted the researchers, efforts must be made to:

  • identify effective and efficient models for delivering long-term follow-up care
  • develop infrastructure to collect long-term clinical and patient-reported outcome data from survivors
  • harness health information technology and other technologies that facilitate care coordination and improvement in survivors’ long-term health outcomes
  • address important knowledge gaps regarding long-term survivors
  • improve integrative palliative care.

“Progress in these areas is critical to achieving optimal clinical, cost, quality-of-life, and satisfaction-with-care outcomes,” advised Rowland’s group.