There are many public health challenges that exist today. Many people continue to be concerned about the wide spread occurrence of cancer which seems to affect every population and every social class in this country. However, on public health issue which is not focused on as much is cancer survivorship. According to the American Cancer Society (2003), Cancer is the 3rd major cause of death in the U. S. with 1 in 3 people being diagnosed with cancer at some time in their life. With the advancement of technology more people are surviving cancer. Records show that 62% survive cancer for at least 5 years after diagnosis. While a great deal of money and attention has focused on prevention, early detection treatment and cure for cancer, addressing the widespread needs of cancer survivors is relatively new to the area of public health. The challenge in this population is creating coordinated systems of care that address the special mental and physical health needs of those who have survived cancer and their families.
Cancer survivors deal with a number of health issues or issues which affect their health including physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and financial concerns. In addition to memory problems, sexual problems, depression and anxiety, pain disorders and specific conditions related to the area of the body affected, the most common problem associated with cancer survivorship is fear of recurrence which effects almost all cancer survivors. These conditions are related as the physical symptoms often lead to mental difficulties and negative mood often underscores the serious nature of the illness the person has survived. This often results in increased fear of relapse resulting in death. This fear effects every area of a person’s life. Fear prevents people from investing energy or resources in long term goals, relationships or dreams. The lack of hope about the future, challenges and new friends can lead to further mood and physical health problems. Often people with cancer find they relate best to other cancer survivors since others don’t know what they’ve gone through. This results in an insular community providing support but also concentrating focus on cancer and cancer related difficulties. On an individual and group level social factors and fear and anxiety can prevent a survivor from leading a full life and rob the rest of the community of the knowledge and experiences of many important individuals who could contribute to society in numerous ways.
CDC is looking into a variety of methods to improve quality of life for cancer survivors. Some solutions include more regular screening for secondary cancers that may result from primary treatment. This effort integrates regular screenings into people’s schedules so it is not a matter of particular focus. CDC developed A National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship: Advancing Public Health Strategies. This program was developed “ to identify and prioritize cancer survivorship needs and strategies within the context of public health that will ultimately improve the overall experience and quality of life of the millions of Americans who are living with, though, and beyond cancer” (p. 3). It is intended to include state agencies, organizations, and individuals cooperatively in selecting and developing priorities to help improve long term outcomes of survivors in a comprehensive manner. Some areas this program targets is increased public awareness, increased involvement of policy makers, and increased efforts and funding for researchers. Other targets of these effort include advocates, other in public health and the survivors themselves. Initial efforts have identified the following areas of focus: communication, education, skills training, employment and careers, health care policy, social involvement, infrastructure; and access to quality care and services.
I am impressed with the comprehensive approach of CDC’s approach. It seems that is will be effective because it is seeking options for improving the quality of life of cancer survivors from so many points of view including the survivors themselves. This program is also targeting the people and organizations who can provide services directly for survivors and those who can help make important changes in public attitudes, priorities and policies. Combining all of these people, organizations and strategies seems like it will be a very complete and effective way to help improve the well-being of cancer survivors.
American Cancer Society (ACS). Cancer Facts & Figures. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer
Society; 2004. Web. 28 May 2014.
Centers for Disease Control. A National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship: Advancing Public
Health Strategies. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, April 2004. Web. 28 May 2014.