Celebrating Cancer Survivors
During National Cancer Survivor Month in June, we’re excited to celebrate the strides being made in cancer research and treatment!
As of January 2019, experts estimate that there are 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States – and that number is expected to grow to 21.7 million by 2029.1 But there’s even more good news! Let’s take a look at some other survivor statistics:
- 67% of survivors (10.3 million people) have lived at least 5 years past their diagnosis1
- By 2029, it’s estimated that 15.1 million patients will be 5+ year survivors1
- Currently, 64% of survivors are at least 65 years old1
- As of 5 years ago, 50% of cancer survivors were diagnosed after the age of 662
- Breast cancer (in females) has the highest rate of survival at 23%, representing 3.6 million women1
- Prostate cancer follows closely behind with a 21% survival rate, accounting for 3.3 million men1
The increase in survival rates can be attributed to a variety of factors including cancer research, improved treatment options and earlier detection. In addition to helping patients live longer, the team at Illinois CancerCare (ILCC) is also committed to improving the quality of those extra years.
Every patient is unique – both physically and emotionally – which is why there isn’t one “right” way to thrive during and after cancer treatment.
Although your ILCC physician or APN will provide guidelines on some of the things you must do (maintaining a certain treatment regimen, following post-op instructions, avoiding contact with highly-contagious people, avoiding certain activities, etc.), there are other aspects of daily life that each person handles his or her own way.
Employment: Depending on the nature of your job, financial needs, energy levels and treatment protocol, you may want to continue working, even if it’s just part-time. Some people appreciate having the opportunity to keep their mind active and they also enjoy the social interaction.
If you return to work and don’t want to spend time dwelling on your health and answering a million questions from concerned colleagues, it’s reasonable to let them know that you appreciate their support and will give them periodic updates – but prefer to focus on being a contributor to the team. The American Cancer Society offers additional tips for working during treatment.
Exercise: Your APN or physician will let you know what exercise is appropriate at each stage of your treatment. Just as it can be important to avoid strenuous activity at certain times, it can even more important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommended exercise approach that gets your body moving and keeps your mind healthy.
Even if you’re a hard-core athlete, you may need to dial back the intensity of your workouts or modify the type of activities you engage in. And that’s okay – your value as a human goes far beyond the number of calories you burn or how many miles you run.
Personal Responsibilities: When you’re going through chemo, receiving radiation or recovering from surgery, you may have less energy than you typically do. That’s why it’s important to prioritize how to you want to use that energy – and accept that you may have eliminate some things from your normal daily activities.
If going back to work or volunteering is important to you, then consider asking a neighbor kid to mow your yard or a friend help with laundry. Maybe you enjoy cooking, but don’t have the stamina to be on your feet as much these days. One option is to buy prepped ingredients (pre-cut fresh veggies, for example) and to eat meals on paper products so you have fewer dishes to deal with. Sometimes making those little changes (and not feeling guilty about it) can make a big difference in your recovery.
Medical Care: While you’re being treated for cancer, it’s important to continue following recommended guidelines for healthy living and to manage your overall fitness. This includes regular dental check-ups, optometry appointments, screenings for other types of cancer, psychological/psychiatric care, physical therapy, allergists, cardiologists or treatment for chronic conditions.
However, it is a good idea to touch base with us so we can make sure you’re receiving comprehensive care that supports your current oncology and medical needs. In some cases, we may suggest a modified screening schedule or advise against certain treatments at specific stages of your cancer care. Your ILCC physician or APN is always happy to discuss these issues with you.
Celebrating National Cancer Survivors Month is something we never take for granted. We feel privileged to support survivors by continuing to conduct clinical research, delivering advanced treatment and always looking forward to the next breakthrough in cancer care.