Counselling sessionMany cancer survivors face physical and mental challenges resulting from their disease and its treatment even decades after being cured, according to researchers at the American Cancer Society. 

The researchers, from University Central Florida, hope that their findings could help clinicians and other experts develop interventions that are tailored to the specific types of problems and concerns that cancer survivors may experience.

Study lead Dr Mary Ann Burg said: “Overall, we found that cancer survivors are often caught off guard by the lingering problems they experience after cancer treatment. In the wake of cancer, many survivors feel they have lost a sense of personal control, have reduced quality of life, and are frustrated that these problems are not sufficiently addressed within the medical care system.

"Improvements are needed concerning public awareness of cancer survivors’ problems, honest professional communication about the side effects of cancer, and the coordination of medical care resources to help survivors and their families cope with their lingering challenges."

Increasingly, cancer patients live for many years after cancer treatment, with the number of US survivors expected to top 19 million by 2024 according to journal CANCER. While many survivors do well after treatment, some experience continuing problems that can significantly impair their quality of life well beyond the 5-year survival milestone. These problems can vary by the type of cancer patients had and the treatments they received. 

For the survey, Dr Burg's team spoke to more than 1,500 cancer survivors about whether they had any needs not being met. Although survivors most frequently expressed physical problems – 38% said they were an issue – anxiety about recurrence was a common theme expressed by survivors regardless of the type of cancer they had or how many years they had survived.

Problems related to sexuality and incontinence among prostate cancer survivors were also common while financial problems related to the costs of treatment also persisted long after treatment for 20% of respondents, with Black and Hispanic survivors being especially hard-hit. 

To read the results in full click here