NIH News Release
National Cancer Institute

Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Contact: NCI Press Office
(301) 496-6641

Cancer Survivorship

Cancer, once considered incurable, is no longer a certain death sentence. Since the 1971 National Cancer Act, much of the research into early cancer detection and treatment has paid off. Mortality rates for most major cancers are declining, and today more people survive cancer than ever before. In fact, 8.4 million Americans nearly one in 30 are living with a history of cancer.

Recent survivorship milestones:

However, surviving cancer can leave a host of problems in its wake. Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after initial diagnosis and treatment. Many survivors suffer decreased quality of life following successful treatment, leading one cancer activist and survivor to say, "Surviving is not just about a cure, but about living the rest of our lives."

Long-term problems, many unique to cancer survivors, include:

Unfortunately, many of these long-term effects and how they impact survivors are poorly understood. In 1996, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) formally recognized the need to better understand the issues cancer survivors face by establishing the Office of Cancer Survivorship (OCS). OCS awarded its first research grants in 1997, totaling $4 million over two years. In 1998, OCS awarded another $15 million over five years. Altogether, NCI supports $20 million per year in survivorship research, much of it begun before the creation of OCS.

The primary goal of OCS, to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors, is served by a range of initiatives. Expanding research into cancer survivorship issues is the first step. OCS has placed a priority on funding research on long-term survivors those alive five or more years after diagnosis. OCS is dedicated to developing the infrastructure such as databases and researcher networks that supports the follow-up needed to study long-term survivors. OCS also supports programs to educate patients, physicians, and the public about cancer survivorship. Finally, much of the research supported by OCS is aimed at interventions that can lessen the burden of cancer survivors.

As more becomes known about the long-term effects of specific treatments, clinicians and their patients will better understand the consequences of such treatments. They will also be better equipped to face those consequences.

Examples of OCS-funded research:

For more information about cancer visit NCI's Web site for patients, public, and the mass media at