There are many factors which will continue to drive the rates of cancer survivorship upward:
- Aging of the baby boomers.
- More effective cancer screening and treatment.
- Early detection of cancers at a younger age.
Improvements in pre-symptomatic diagnosis can be expected as a result of the Human Genome Project, an international, collaborative research program whose goal is the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. This may result in the identification of genetic precursors which could predispose people to certain cancers and result in earlier diagnosis and personalized treatment.
Survivorship and rehabilitation will be an increasingly important step in a person’s cancer journey. In fact, many experts are advising survivors to develop a “survivorship care plan,” which consists of:
- Specific information about the type of cancer diagnosed and treatment prescribed.
- Information about possible side effects of treatment and recurrence.
- A schedule for follow-up screening tests.
- Suggestions on cancer prevention and healthy living.
“An ideal system of survivorship care would provide all cancer survivors with preventive services, surveillance, necessary interventions, and coordination with primary care to ensure that all of the survivor’s care needs are met. Many cancer survivors do not receive comprehensive survivorship care. They are, in effect, lost to follow-up. Some survivors may receive aspects of post-treatment care from their cancer care or primary care providers, but such care is rarely comprehensive or coordinated.”