How does survivorship research fit into the cancer control continuum?
Up until 20 years ago, the medical community defined as cancer survivors only those individuals who remained disease free for at least 5 years after treatment - survivorship wasn't even on the radar screen. But today, clinicians and researchers recognize that life after cancer brings its own unique challenges. Perhaps even more critically, many are also beginning to realize that the continuum of cancer care and control, while often portrayed as a straight line (from prevention to detection, treatment, survivorship, and end of life), is for most survivors, a cyclical process.
What are some of the disparities among cancer survivors?
As survivorship research expands, we are quickly learning that cultural and sociodemographic factors can differentially affect not just who survives cancer, but importantly, what their survivorship experience is like. For example, research suggests that African American survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia are at higher risk of early cardiotoxicity; Latina breast cancer survivors may suffer more physical symptoms from their illness than Caucasian, Asian, or African American women; rural cancer survivors worry more about the financial impact and isolation associated with their illness than their urban counterparts; and poverty is associated with high risk for psychosocial morbidity regardless of gender, age, culture, or geography. Among the biggest challenges we have for the future is to better understand the causes and consequences of these disparities, and find ways to eliminate them.