More than 18 million Americans have now survived cancer, a new report shows.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the U.S. National Cancer Institute collaborated on the report to estimate cancer prevalence and help public health officials better serve survivors.
"As the population of cancer survivors continues to grow and age, there is an increased need for guidance for health professionals, caregivers and patients on how to manage late and long-term effects of cancer and its treatment, maintain healthy behaviors and limit financial toxicity," noted study author Kimberly Miller. She is a scientist for surveillance and health equity science at the ACS, and spoke in a cancer society news release.
According to the report, about 8.3 million males and 9.7 million females with a history of cancer were living in the United States as of Jan. 1, about 67% of them aged 65 and older.
The most prevalent type of cancer in men was prostate, with more than 3.5 million cases, melanoma skin cancer with over 760,000 and colorectal at 726,000. For women, the most prevalent was breast cancer with more than 4 million cases, uterine cancer at over 891,000 and thyroid at nearly 824,000.
More than half of the individuals counted as survivors had been diagnosed within the past 10 years.
The research team found evidence of increased uptake of recent treatment advances, including receipt of immunotherapy for stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer, which increased from 12% in 2016 to 33% in 2018.
The investigators also found substantial racial disparities in treatment and survival for common cancers.
Surgeries were substantially lower among Black patients than white patients with non-small cell lung cancer, at 49% compared to 55% for stages 1 to 2 and 16% compared to 22% for stage 3.
Treatment of rectal cancer had one of the largest disparities. Only 41% of Black patients with stage 1 disease receive proctectomy or proctocolectomy compared to 66% of white patients, according to the report.
Later-stage diagnosis of cancers in Black people exacerbated the treatment disparities. Among the largest of these was in uterine cancer, where 59% of Black patients diagnosed were at stage I disease compared to 73% of white patients.
"We are encouraged by a growing number of tools to assist patients, caregivers and clinicians in navigating the various phases of cancer survivorship," Miller said.
For example, the ACS has developed guidelines for post-treatment care, nutrition and physical activity among survivors.
"However, more evidence-based strategies and equitable access to available resources are needed to mitigate disparities for communities of color," Miller stressed.
The increasing number of cancer survivors is partly a reflection of population growth, and so the number on its own cannot be used to measure progress against cancer. These estimates were based on observed population-based data through 2018.
The report was published online June 23 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on cancer survival.
SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, June 23, 2022