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Issues Faced by Cancer Survivors

June 2008

A cancer survivor is commonly defined as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis and treatment through the remaining years of life. M. D. Anderson uses the term “cancer survivor” to describe people who have been diagnosed with cancer and the people in their lives who are affected by the diagnosis, including family members, friends and caregivers.

New and improved therapies are allowing an increasing number of people to enjoy a full life after cancer treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 10 million cancer survivors are alive in the U.S. today. However, staying healthy can be a challenge for cancer survivors because intensive treatments create unique and long-lasting health needs.

Recognize Common Survivorship Issues

According to the Texas Cancer Plan (pdf) , below are some of the significant issues faced by cancer survivors:

Physical– Cancer treatment can cause different side effects and symptoms in each individual. Physical symptoms, both short and long term, can continue for years after treatment ends.

Psychological– A cancer diagnosis can cause a patient to experience a full range of emotions from anger to helplessness. These feelings often do not disappear once treatment is over.

Social– Survivors often experience a decreased sense of social well-being as they attempt to return to the social and professional lives they had before treatment.

Spiritual– The spiritual impacts of survivorship may vary among cultural and racial/ethnic groups. Some gain strength in their faith, while others feel tested; some find new purpose and meaning in their lives.

Economic– The cost of initial and continued care can become a financial burden for survivors, especially when coupled with the potential loss of employment by the patient or caregiver.

Finding support to cope with these issues is crucial to the health and wellbeing of cancer survivors and those supporting them.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center