Cancer survivorship is an emerging area of research within cancer control. Over the past two decades, improvements in cancer screening and treatment, as well as people living longer, have resulted in a significant increase in the number of cancer survivors. Relative 5-year survival rates for adults and children are currently 65.3% and 82.6%, respectively. It is estimated that there are currently over 15 million cancer survivors in the U.S., and that number is projected to increase to more than 20 million by 2026.
In recognition of these growing numbers of cancer survivors, NCI established the Office of Cancer Survivorship (OCS) in 1996. The mission of the OCS is to enhance the quality and length of survival of all persons diagnosed with cancer and to minimize or stabilize adverse effects experienced during cancer survivorship.
Although definitions of a cancer survivor differ somewhat, the OCS considers an individual a survivor from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends and caregivers are also affected by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition.
Cancer survivors deal with many issues during and after treatment. During treatment, psychological issues, treatment decisions and symptom management are often a concern while the transition period post primary treatment is one of increasing interest, as are the long-term effects of cancer treatment. Research in cancer survivorship includes a broad range of areas such as:
- Health-related quality of life
- Lifestyle/behavior change
- Symptom management
- Access to treatment
- Health disparities
- Complementary and alternative interventions
- Clinical care economic issues
- Long-term or late effects of cancer treatments
The Institute of Medicine Report “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition” published in 2005 describes the range of medical and psychosocial issues faced by cancer survivors during the critical transition from active treatment to post-treatment care. This time period has been identified as a high priority research area for both understanding the issues faced by cancer survivors and their families, as well as for delivering survivorship care. The issues involved in cancer survivorship are inherently interdisciplinary and involve knowledge of epidemiology, social and behavioral sciences, clinical oncology, cancer biology and genetics.
Our multidisciplinary training program serves to train MD and PhD level scientists to become independent researchers in the area of cancer survivorship.