There are more than 70,000 cancer survivors living in Idaho today. The term “cancer survivor” generally refers to a person who has been diagnosed with cancer from the time they are diagnosed through the rest of their life. Cancer survivorship encompasses the physical, emotional, economic, and social issues associated with cancer. Long-term symptoms and late effects may have an impact for many years or for the rest of the survivor’s life. It should be noted that not everyone who has had a cancer diagnosis identifies with the term “cancer survivor.” Also, some organizations extend the use of “cancer survivor” to include those affected by a cancer diagnosis (e.g. family, friends, and caregivers).
It is expected that the number of cancer survivors in Idaho will continue to grow as treatments for cancer continue to improve and as more cancers are detected early, which will increase the survival rate. Because the risks for cancer increase with age, the aging population also will contribute to the growing number of individuals diagnosed with cancer.
As outlined in the National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship, addressing the needs of cancer survivors is important for:
- Preventing secondary cancers and recurrence of cancer whenever possible.
- Promoting appropriate management following diagnosis/and or treatment to ensure the maximum number of years of healthy life for cancer survivors.
- Minimizing preventable pain, disability, and psychosocial distress for those living with, through and beyond cancer.
- Supporting survivors in accessing the resources and the family, peer, and community support they need to cope with their disease.
There is an ever increasing effort to better assist cancer survivors and their families in improving their quality of life throughout all phases of cancer. A personalized survivorship care plan assists individuals with a cancer diagnosis by outlining recommended doctor visits and treatment with the appropriate health care providers. A care plan can provide guidance on lifestyle changes needed to improve quality of life. Lifestyle changes that benefit cancer survivors include:
- Being physically active.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Quitting smoking and use of other tobacco products through approved methods for quitting tobacco.
- Avoiding second-hand smoke.
- Identifying and using resources for emotional support.
- Healthy methods of stress management.
- Adequate good-quality sleep.
- Avoiding alcohol or drinking only in moderation.
- Continuing to go for regular check-ups and cancer and other health screenings.