Survivors Are Living Unmet Needs for Care

Currently, there are approximately 25 million people around the world living with cancer, and over 60% of adults newly diagnosed with cancer can expect to live at least five years or more. Marie Fallon, Professor of Palliative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, says many of these patients are living in limbo with unmet needs that should be addressed urgently.

“Traditionally, palliative care has been aimed at one end of the spectrum where it is used to help patients near the end of their lives,” she says. “However, there is an enormous population of long-term survivors of cancer, many of whom are living with a range of symptoms. Some of them will not know whether they are cured and whether the symptoms they are experiencing are treatment-related or whether they are related to recurrence of the disease that has not yet been diagnosed."

Further she mentions:“These patients exist in a limbo. They fall between two stools: they have finished being treated by oncologists, but are not receiving the care and support from palliative care teams that patients at the end of life receive. Yet the impact of cancer and cancer treatment on the long-term health of survivors is substantial and many of them remain very symptomatic, with poor quality of life. Clearly a proportion will unfortunately be diagnosed with recurrent cancer at some point.”

The problems cancer survivors face can include pain, sexual difficulties, troublesome lymphoedema, and psychosocial problems including depression and anxiety.

Profs Fallon explains: “We need to develop a particular supportive care model for sick patients and traditional palliative care expertise should feed into this model. Life and illness are a continuum and our patients do not always fit into well-defined boxes. As specialists, our challenge is to accommodate this continuum rather than restrict it.”; Source: The European CanCer Organisation (ECCO)