growing number of older cancer survivors presents a unique challenge to the
health care system because they are more likely to have multiple chronic
diseases and tend to experience poorer physical functioning than younger
survivors, says an NBC article based on a study published in Cancer
Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
More than 13 million people had
survived cancer and were still alive in the United States as of January 1,
2012. Nearly two-thirds of them were considered "cured," having
survived 5 years or more. Forty percent had survived 10 years; 15% had lived 20
years past their diagnosis. The study's authors project that the ranks of
cancer survivors will grow by nearly a third over the next 10 years.
"By 2020, two-thirds of cancer
survivors are going to be age 65 or older," said Julia Rowland, PhD, the
study's lead author and director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the
National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
"Provision of high-quality
care for older adult survivors may require adoption of new metrics and
strategies," the authors write. "These include the use of geriatric
assessments of health and quality of life, the development of geriatric cancer
rehabilitation programs, and the development of multidisciplinary teams with
expertise in older adults' complex and unique needs. Optimally, these teams
will include geriatric specialists in social work, psychology (or neuropsychology),
nursing, rehabilitation, and oncology, along with geriatricians."
Rowland and colleagues say a
concerted effort is needed to better describe older cancer survivors, define
and refine standards of quality care for them, and develop delivery systems
that reflect the multifaceted needs of this diverse and vulnerable
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