Being told you have cancer can change everything. You may feel overwhelmed and uncertain. The good news: More Americans are surviving the disease. That fact is highlighting the need for quality care after cancer.
Every 2 years, the American Cancer Society estimates the number of cancer survivors in the U.S. It uses the latest data on cancer cases and population size. Its most recent report suggests we are winning the war against cancer. Today, more than 14 million adults and children can call themselves cancer survivors. By 2024, that number will top 18 million.
What's behind the increase? Part of it has to do with a growing population. More of us are also living longer, raising our risk for many types of cancers. For instance, age is a major factor in your chances of developing colorectal cancer.
At the same time, advances in detection and treatment are making a big difference. Consider breast cancer. It's the most common type of cancer in women. The 5-year survival rate has risen to 90% over the last 30 years. Why? Experts point to mammograms and better treatment options.
For many survivors, although treatment is over, life after cancer can still be tough. They may have to deal with short- and long-term side effects. Some people may have trouble doing every day activities. Others may have depression or anxiety.
Follow-up care can help many people manage life after cancer. It may mean regular checkups and tests. It may also include a survivorship care plan. This written document sums up past treatment and future care.
One small study found such a plan gave survivors of colorectal cancer peace of mind. It also helped coordinate care between their regular doctor and their cancer specialist. Despite these benefits, these plans aren't always used. In fact, too few doctors are providing them, according to a recent survey.
If you are a cancer survivor, be sure to talk with your doctor about your after-cancer care. Ask how often you should see your health care team and which follow-up tests you may need. Tell your doctor about any health concerns, including new symptoms and lingering side effects.
Here are more tips from the American Cancer Society for living a healthy life after cancer.
Many cancer survivors fight fatigue. It can be a side effect from medication or another treatment. It may also stem from chronic pain, emotional problems, and trouble sleeping.
Cancer experts recently published guidelines to help doctors and patients deal with fatigue. They include:
Carve out time for exercise. Activities like walking, biking, and weightlifting can ease fatigue. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week.
Rest your mind and your body. Some studies show that activities such as yoga, acupuncture, and massage may help ease fatigue.
Try behavioral therapy. It can teach you how to better cope with life after cancer.