Did You Know... The Facts About Cancer Survivorship?

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: June 23, 2009

Cancer survivorship has gotten a great deal of media attention in recent years, but how much do you really know about survivorship?

The terms “survivor” and “survivorship” have different meanings for different people. One widely used definition of a survivor is any person who has been diagnosed with cancer, whether or not he or she has completed treatment. Other definitions limit survivors to those who have completed initial therapy and are in remission, while others include the loved ones of a person with cancer in the definition. Cancer survivorship is most often defined as the process of living with, through, and beyond cancer. The following facts define a survivor as any person with a diagnosis of cancer.

  • There are an estimated 11 million cancer survivors living in the United States today.
  • This has increased from a mere 3 million in 1971. The increase may be attributed to improved detection methods and treatments.
  • Between 2000 and 2050, the number of cancer survivors over the age of 65 is expected to double as the baby boomer generation ages.
  • 60% of all cancer survivors are age 65 or older.
  • One in every seven survivors were diagnosed over 20 years ago!
  • 66% of all patients diagnosed with cancer today will live more than five years.
  • As of 2002, 38% of survivors were of “working age” (ages 20-64 years old).
  • 80% of people return to work after a cancer diagnosis.
  • Studies have shown little, if any, difference in the work performance of cancer survivors who return to work.
  • One in five survivors will have cancer related work limitations up to five years after diagnosis.
  • Many survivors describe their cancer journey as a life changing event. They report a new outlook on life and a better ability to “not sweat the small stuff”.
  • Treatment with surgery, chemotherapies (and other cancer treatments), and/or radiation can leave survivors at higher risk for health complications compared with their peers who have not had such treatments. Some complications may not develop for 10 or more years after treatment (these are often called late effects).
  • Survivors should keep records of the treatments they received for future reference. Use OncoPilot forms to organize a treatment record.
  • Survivors should have a survivorship care plan developed that helps them identify their risk for late effects, how to monitor for them and preventive steps they can take. Use OncoLife Care Plan to develop a plan you can review with your healthcare team.


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