Addressing the Needs of Cancer Survivors: Issues and Challenges

Jessica Corner


Expert Rev Pharmacoeconomics Outcomes Res. 2008;8(5):443-451. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


This paper reviews the consequences of improving cancer survival rates for health services and for future research. The good news that people are living longer following a cancer diagnosis brings with it consequences. There are growing numbers of people who live for many years following primary cancer treatment, yet little information exists as to the health and well-being of individuals with cancer over the long term. Data from the few studies of the well-being of cancer survivors suggest that while, in general, individuals report that they are in good health, a substantial minority experience long-term physical, social and economic consequences, and make extensive use of health services as a result. There are few services targeted at supporting long-term cancer survivors or minimizing the potential physical or emotional consequences to enable individuals to return to productive lives following treatment. A research agenda to address these issues is proposed.


This paper sets out to consider the implications of the increasing number of people surviving cancer in the long term and draws on a broad range of literature to reflect critically on actions that must be taken to provide improved support to the increasing number of people who face the long-term consequences of a cancer diagnosis. The focus is on adult survivors of cancer, although studies relating to survivors of cancer during childhood are also relevant because they provide insights into some of the problems and issues that adults with cancer will inevitably face. Perceived neglect of the issues surrounding long-term survival has led to a movement in the USA promoting the concept of cancer survivorship, which was recently acknowledged in the Cancer Reform Strategy for England.[1,2] Many conflicting definitions of survivorship are at large and there are problems regarding how these have been applied in studies, making it difficult to make comparisons between study populations relating to cancer outcomes or quality-of-life issues. For example, some studies define the population under study as having completed primary treatment, while others examine cancer survivors 5 years following diagnosis. The heterogeneity of samples in studies makes the assessment of which factors relate to particular outcomes difficult to disentangle. A working definition for this emergent field of interest is recommended by Feuerstein as encompassing adults with a cancer diagnosis following primary treatment through to the end of life.[3]


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