Cancer survival rates have increased over the last few years and while that has helped many people to live lengthy lives, the support they need post their therapies certainly needs an overhaul to enable them to lead independent lives.
According to a study published in Journal of Cancer Policy experts have said that support for people who survive cancer and the research that underpins their care is insufficient, particularly when it comes to non-medical issues. The article shines a light on the issues and calls for more long-term research, better cross-analysis of different cancer types and better support for those who survive the disease.
Authors of the paper point out that 33 per cent men and 23 per cent women will develop cancer before the age of 75. However, latest advancements in medical science has paved way for better prevention, screening and treatment for cancer that has resulted in an increasing number of those people survive. Globally there were 32 million cancer survivors in 2012 alone, and they will make up a significant proportion of the population in the future.
While medically we may have advanced a lot, there is a huge gap when it comes to understanding and solving socio-economic issues that cancer survivors are facing. Authors have called for a shift from thinking about medical issues alone, to these important societal challenges.
“Surviving cancer is more than a medical issue. We hope the research in this issue will increase the awareness of the socio-economic challenges faced by survivors for both researchers and society, which would help to engage various stakeholders to join forces in research, deliver the best care for survivors and change practice,” said Dr. Lifang Liu, one of the guest editors of the special issue.
When someone survives cancer, they may have continuing medical issues to think about, with regular checkups and tests following remission. But this isn’t all they have to worry about – it could be the difficulties they often have accessing work, getting loans, mortgages and insurance, and returning to a healthy sex life that cause them the most problems.
Obtaining insurance is an example of the socio-economic challenges cancer survivors face. One of the papers in the issue1 provides a practical solution to protect cancer survivors from discrimination when applying for insurance. The right to be forgotten, a French case study, is a potential starting point for a national or pan-European solution to this problem.
Another paper in the issue describes the YOU infrastructure: one of the four infrastructures that EORTC invested in to optimize and streamline modern clinical research. It is an innovative endeavor that aims to close the gap between clinical research and long-term follow up, ultimately to improve the lives of cancer patients.
“Current research efforts are fragmented,” said Prof. Françoise Meunier, one of the guest editors of the issue. “There is an urgent need to change our mentality towards cancer survivorship and to form a comprehensive view on long term follow-up involving medical, physical, and psychological perspectives but also societal and financial ones. To move from optimized research to better care, implementation is key: we need to involve many different stakeholders early – not only researchers, but also lawyers, insurers and policy makers.”