The “cancer tsunami” that will result from new diagnoses of baby boomers is accounted for on the strategic plans of many health systems. However, new reports about the pending "silver tsunami” of cancer survivors must also factor into plans. In the July 1 edition of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers published a report that said those in cancer survivorship will grow exponentially, with the category of survivors aged 65 or older growing the most and representing nearly 75% of cancer survivors by 2040.
What are the implications?
“Older adults, who often present with complex health needs, now constitute the majority of cancer survivors and will continue to dominate the survivor population over the next 24 years. Understanding the impact of a graying nation on cancer prevalence and comorbidity burden is critical in informing efforts to design and implement quality cancer care for this population.”
The study from National Cancer Institute (NCI) researchers found that by 2040:
- The number of cancer survivors in the United States will increase by nearly 11 million – from 15.5 million in 2016 to 26.1 million in 2040.
- The proportion of cancer survivors aged 65 or older will grow from 61% to 73%.
- Only 18% of cancer survivors will be between ages 50 and 64, and only 8% will be younger than 50.
Many cancer survivors have unique health care needs as a consequence of the disease cancer or the treatments they received. No wonder forward-looking leaders at health systems and cancer centers are asking:
- How do we plan to manage these patient in survivorship (survivorship clinics, e.g.)?
- How do we manage their unique needs based on the combination of age, tumors and comorbidities?
- Do we have the care coordination tools and processes we need to track across multiple outpatient settings?
- How do we staff for the increasing need (how many oncologists, non-physician practitioners, primary care, medical homes, etc.)?