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Population of US Cancer Survivors Grows to Nearly 17 Million

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The number of cancer survivors in the United States continues to go up. A new report by the American Cancer Society – in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute – estimates there are more than 16.9 million cancer survivors alive in the US today, and that number will grow to more than 22.1 million by 2030. The authors define “survivor” as anyone who’s ever had cancer, from the time of diagnosis for the rest of their life, although they acknowledge that not everyone with a history of cancer uses this term.

The report, “Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Statistics, 2019,” was published June 11, 2019 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer  Society.  A companion consumer edition, Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Facts & Figures, 2019-2021, was published at the same time.​

The report says even though the rates of new cancer cases are decreasing in men and staying about the same in women, the number of survivors is growing. This is due partly to better treatments that help people with cancer live longer; improvements in early detection that allow doctors to find cancer earlier when it is often easier to treat; and a growing and aging population.

The report, produced every 3 years, was created to help draw attention to the increasing number of cancer survivors in the US who have specific medical, psychological, and social needs. It also aims to raise awareness of resources that can assist patients, caregivers, and health care providers in navigating treatment and recovery from cancer.

“People with a history of cancer have unique medical, psychosocial, and economic needs that require proactive assessment and management by health care providers,” said Robin Yabroff, PhD, senior scientific director of Health Services Research at the American Cancer Society and co-author of the report, in a statement. “Although there are growing numbers of tools that can assist patients, caregivers, and clinicians in navigating the various phases of cancer survivorship, further evidence-based resources are needed to optimize care.”

According to the report, the 3 most common cancers among male survivors are prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and melanoma skin cancer. The 3 most common cancers among female survivors are breast cancer, uterine cancer (including endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma), and colorectal cancer. The report also finds that 64% of cancer survivors — almost two-thirds — are 65 years old or older, and 56%, more than half, were diagnosed within the past 10 years. In addition, the report estimates that in the US there are 65,850 cancer survivors ages 14 and younger, and 47,760 cancer survivors between the ages 15 and 19.

As the population of cancer survivors grows, the authors point out the need for better delivery and coordination of post-treatment cancer care. They identified several areas to be addressed:

  • Better coordination of medical care between cancer care teams and primary care providers
  • Continued development of evidence-based guidelines for after-cancer care
  • Greater access to quality medical care, especially for people without health insurance or with inadequate health insurance
  • Research to identify the best ways to encourage cancer survivors to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle

Survivorship resources

The American Cancer Society recently released a cancer survivorship blueprint to outline the most pressing areas for care delivery, research, education, and policy. In addition, the American Cancer Society has produced guidelines for certain cancer types to help primary care doctors care for people with a history of cancer.

See more resources for cancer survivors, caregivers, and health care providers in Survivorship: During and After Treatment, and in our National Cancer Survivorship Resource Center.