Life After Cancer: How to Support Survivors
With the advancements in treatments and improvements in diagnosing cancer, the number of cancer survivors has increased significantly over the years. There were 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States in 2019, and some estimates show that by 2030 there could be more than 22.2 million survivors, according to the National Cancer Institute.“A survivor is someone who’s been diagnosed with cancer, and that term can be applied throughout the time of their treatment and well beyond,” stated Dr. Annabelle Veerapaneni, Oncology Medical Director at the Riverside Cancer Institute, “And we recognize that there are unique issues that cancer survivors deal with.”
For those of us who have not gone through a cancer journey, it may be surprising that survivors can face a new set of challenges even after treatment has ended. Some of these challenges may include:
- Fear of cancer recurring
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Guilt about being a survivor
- Uncertainty about the future
- Dealing with long-term effects of treatment in everyday life
“I think some people actually resent the word survivor because they don’t want to carry that diagnosis of the cancer with them,’ Dr. Veerapaneni said, “…regardless of whether or not they accept the term, it certainly is something that they live with for the rest of their lives, and I believe a lot of it has to do with that fear of recurrent disease because its something you don’t have control over.”
Keeping in mind that survivors face new challenges, it is important to continue to support survivors even after treatment has ended. Support can look different for different people but simple things like being a good listener, taking their challenges seriously, and showing up when they need extra support are great places to start.
“Survivorship is a powerful term. I always tell my patients that no matter what happens, they’re always fighting for the best outcome for themselves,” Dr. Veerapaneni said.
To learn more about cancer survivorship, click here.