Cancer: The cost of survival

Cancer prevalence will continue to rise worldwide in the future. However, more and more people are surviving their tumor disease. Nevertheless, many people may struggle for life with the after-effects.

The complex balance between survival and quality of life

Cancer prevalence will continue to rise worldwide in the future. However, more and more people are surviving their tumor disease. Nevertheless, many people may struggle for life with the after-effects.

An estimated 32.5 million people over the age of 15 have successfully overcome their cancer and survived. They are cancer-free or have achieved a permanent remission and yet live with the long-term consequences of their disease every day.

Long-term consequences impact very different areas of life

In addition to the physical consequences, such as infertility, risk of secondary tumors, pain, heart-lung problems, nerve damage, polyneuropathies, bone damage, immunosuppression, and cognitive limitations, there are also psychosocial factors in cancer survival: fear of relapse anxiety over financial stability, fatigue, depression, loss of concentration and a generally perceived lower quality of life. Many former cancer patients are still more at risk of depression years after the actual diagnosis, especially after thyroid, brain, or testicular tumors.

The work situation of people who have survived cancer is particularly difficult, and economic fear is therefore high. According to statistics, only about 64% of people with cancer are back in work after one year. The average duration of work absence is currently 151 days. However, workplace and employment shape the way we perceive ourselves, enable us to have social relationships, and account for a large part of our life satisfaction. If this is suddenly missing as a result of a serious illness that has been survived, this reinforces the psychosocial aspect of the long-term consequences of cancer.

Aftercare recommendations as a type of support

Since survival from the patient's point of view can no longer be the sole goal of tumor therapy, it is important to also start planning aftercare at an early stage. Such an approach also brings a positive view of cancer and, where appropriate, gives an optimistic chance of recovery.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) therefore makes the following suggestions for approaching the topic in different ways:

An often forgotten population is the relatives of those affected. They too need support and professional help in situations of strong emotional stress when dealing with sick family members.

Source: "Survivorship" session; DKK 2020, Berlin, 21.02.2020

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