The number of Americans living with cancer is projected to rise by nearly a third over the next decade — to 18 million by 2022 — a trend that is sure to pose significant challenges for the U.S. healthcare system, according to a new report.
The Annual Report on Cancer Survivorship in the United States — compiled by the American Association for Cancer Research in advance of agency’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., next week — noted there are approximately 13.7 million cancer survivors in the United States today. But improving cancer treatments and the greying of the U.S. population will drive that figure higher over the next 10 years.
“The increase in the number of survivors will be due primarily to an aging of the population,” said Julia Rowland, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “By 2020, we expect that two-thirds of cancer survivors are going to be age 65 or older.”
The report was based on an analysis of the government-funded Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program and U.S. Census Bureau population projections.
In addition to projecting future trends, the report noted wide differences in survival — and treatment successes — based on the most common types of cancer that strike Americans. Women with breast cancer account for 22 percent of survivors, for instance, while men with prostate cancer make up 20 percent. But people with lung cancer, the second mostly diagnosed common cancer, only represent 3 percent of survivors.
“For patients with prostate cancer, we have a nearly 100 percent five-year survival rate, and breast cancer has made tremendous strides as well, with five-year survival rising from 75 percent in 1975 to almost 89 percent in 2012,” said Rowland. “However, we clearly need to have better diagnostic tools and better treatments for lung cancer.”
According to Rowland, the increase in cancers will present new challenges for the healthcare community. Patients diagnosed with cancer will likely have other chronic conditions that need to be managed, and Rowland estimates 16 percent will have had a previous malignancy.
“How to ensure that these patients lead not only long lives, but healthy and productive lives, will be a vital challenge to all of us,” said Rowland.
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