There are approximately 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States and, fortunately, this number has grown over the past decade. For many decades the talk has been, and still is, about research to find a cure. However, today, because of successes in understanding more about breast cancer, successes in discovering increasingly effective treatments and improved outcomes, there is more talk about life after breast cancer treatment, i.e. survivorship.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Cancer Prevention and Control and LIVESTRONG (Lance Armstrong Foundation) have led a public health effort to address the issues that the growing number of cancer survivors face by living with, through and beyond cancer. Through their collaboration, A National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship: Advancing Public Health Strategies was developed:
The National Action Plan represents the combined effort of almost 100 experts in cancer survivorship and public health. It identifies and prioritizes cancer survivorship needs and proposes strategies for addressing those needs within four core public health components:
- Surveillance and applied research.
- Communication, education and training.
- Programs, policies and infrastructure.
- Access to quality care and services.
The CDC Fact Sheet has more information regarding its activities with partner organizations to help cancer survivors throughout their cancer experience.
From the time you are diagnosed with cancer you are deemed a survivor because you are taking steps to overcome the disease. But, what does survivorship really mean?
Here’s the National Cancer Institute’s definition:
“Survivorship covers the physical, psychosocial and economic issues of cancer, from diagnosis until the end of life. It focuses on the health and life of a person with cancer beyond the diagnosis and treatment phases. Survivorship includes issues related to the ability to get healthcare and follow-up treatment, late effects of treatment, second cancers and quality of life. Family members, friends and caregivers are also part of the survivorship experience.”
Another perspective on “what is survivorship” is provided by an ABC News interview, conducted by Robin Roberts, a breast cancer survivor, with the founder of Survivorship A to Z, David S. Landay:
Your survivorship and quality of life will be dictated by the decisions and choices you make about how you live your life after breast cancer treatment. Taking charge of your recovery and devising a holistic action plan, i.e. a survivor empowerment plan to manage your health and wellness will help you live in a way that focuses on preventing a breast cancer recurrence and enables you to live a strong, healthy and vibrant life.