Thanks in no small part to advances in medical science, clinical trials, early detection, treatment, and follow-up care, cancer patients are more likely than ever before to survive the disease. Recent data suggests that one in every 20 Americans is a cancer survivor. Several states have over one million cancer-surviving residents. The cancer survivorship community is one that has endured, persisted, and in many cases, defied the odds. Cancer survivors have a diverse range of experiences with their diagnoses, treatment, and life after cancer.
A recent survey that the Cancer Research Institute conducted explores what survivorship means to affected cancer survivors. The answers varied, reflecting the personal histories of the survivors. Many asserted that they wanted to take control of their own narrative and to take ownership of the rest of their lives, regardless of where they were in their treatment or recovery process. Furthermore, they stressed that they valued self-care and accountability, their support networks, and redefining their life goals and legacies.
Nearly two-thirds of people in the cancer survivorship community are 65 years of age or older. A wide variety of cancer survivors were previously diagnosed with breast cancer, and nearly as many were diagnosed with prostate cancer. The overall number of cancer survivors is expected to rise by nearly one-third by 2030, with over 26 million expected survivors in the U.S.
The very definition of what it means to be a cancer survivor has evolved over time. It used to be the case that cancer survivorship focused on three phases: diagnosis through initial treatment, treatment to extended survival, and long-term survival. Now, a variety of different trajectories explain the diversity of experiences among cancer survivors because the road to recovery and survivorship is not a tidy, one-size-fits-all journey. For example, one person might be diagnosed with a type of cancer and then be cured of the disease for the rest of their life. Another person might be diagnosed with cancer, successfully battle the cancer, and then experiences recurrences in the disease for the rest of their life.
Now more than ever, there is reason for cancer patients and their loved ones to lean on the hope provided by advances in science. Recent breakthroughs in immunotherapy treatments and even cures shine a light on what is possible in the fight against cancer. The experience of cancer survivorship is a tale that is still very much being told, and it will continue to evolve on the shoulders of current and oncoming scientific breakthroughs.
Read individual stories of cancer survivors in the CRI ImmunoCommunity