June 3rd is National Cancer Survivors Day

How Much do you Know about Cancer Survivorship?

By: Nicole Scheiman, DrOT, MHS, OTR/L, CLT-LANA, CKTP

10 Facts about Cancer Survivorship

  1. There are an estimated 11 million cancer survivors living in the United States today, this is increased from 3 million in 1971. Improved detection methods and treatments correlate with this increase.
  2. Between 2000 and 2050, the number of cancer survivors over the age of 65 is expected to double as the baby boomer generation ages.
  3. 60% of all cancer survivors are age 65 or older.
  4. One in every seven survivors were diagnosed over 20 years ago.
  5. As of 2002, 38% of survivors were of “working age” (ages 20-64 years old).
  6. 80% of survivors return to work.
  7. Studies have shown little, if any, difference in the work performance of cancer survivors who return to work.
  8. Treatment with surgery, chemotherapies, and/or radiation, etc. can leave survivors at higher risk for health complications compared with their peers who have not had these treatments.
  9. Some complications of treatment do not develop for 10 or more years after treatment!
  10. Rehabilitation services can provide survivors with improved quality of life not only during cancer treatments but also throughout survivorship!

So what do these facts tell us as rehabilitation providers?  These facts tell us that as medical knowledge and technology continues to improve, cancer becomes a survivable disease.  However, surviving also comes with potential cancer-related comorbidities, which can result in the survivor requiring increased medial services, including rehabilitation.  Many studies have confirmed that breast cancer-related comorbidities can significantly affect a survivor’s quality of life; often presenting with impairments in physical, psychosocial, and cognitive aspects of daily living.

Common impairments can include:

  • body image disturbance
  • sexual dysfunction
  • anxiety
  • fear of recurrence
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • lymphedema
  • musculoskeletal symptoms
  • accelerated bone loss and fractures
  • pain and skin changes due to radiation
  • disease recurrence

Additionally, these cancer survivor facts tell us that regardless of our practice area, we are more than likely going to be working with individuals with cancer or a history of cancer.  Therefore, we need to have the skills and knowledge to best address both immediate survivor needs during cancer treatments and long-term needs throughout survivorship.  In order to meet these needs, rehabilitation can be initiated and supported through survivor-centered, science-driven, and outcomes-based programs designed to address short and long-term survivor needs.

So, are you prepared to address the rehabilitation needs of your patients with cancer or a history of cancer?  If not, consider learning more about survivors’ needs and how rehabilitation can be key at the following course, “A Therapist’s Guide to Oncology Rehabilitation.”  For more information, please visit: https://summit-education.com/c/PONCNS.1


Penn Medicine.  (2018). Did you know. The facts about cancer survivorship? Retrieved from: https://www.oncolink.org/print/pdf/8524?print_8524.pdf