A historic number of Americans — some 14.5 million — diagnosed with cancer are surviving the disease, and survivorship is expected to grow to 19 million by 2024, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society.
The findings, published in the Society's Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures, 2014-2015, show that multiple factors are responsible for increased survivorship, including better screening tools and treatments.
The report defines survivorship in numerous ways ranging from “living disease free for the remainder of life” to “anyone who's received a cancer diagnosis even if they have not yet completed treatment.”
The report points out that population growth and longer lifespans are adding to a record number of survivors now and are expected to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.
As Americans are living longer the number of new cancer survivors is expected to climb. Currently, almost half of all cancer survivors are aged 70 years or older, while 5 percent are under age 40.
Dr. Kevin Oeffinger, director of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Adult Long-Term Follow-Up Program told CBS News that this is “really exciting” news. "We actually are seeing more cancer survivors today than we had anticipated even a few years ago," he said.
Recent advancements in oncology, from targeted treatment to personalized medicine, are offering doctors and patients more treatment choices than ever before. And with more promising treatments on the horizon, cancer is becoming less death sentence and more something we live with.
“They're living longer and we hope with better quality of life," said Dr. Patricia Ganz. Ganz' research at University of California, Los Angeles focuses on quality-of-life issues.
“The goals of treatment are to 'cure' the cancer if possible and/or prolong survival and provide the highest possible quality of life during and after treatment,” the ACS report said.