There are many types of cancer survivors. Learn about key survivorship and survivorship research-related terms.
Cancer Survivor: An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of life. There are many types of survivors, including those living with cancer and those free of cancer. This term is meant to capture a population of those with a history of cancer rather than to provide a label that may or may not resonate with individuals.
Adapted from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
Cancer Survivorship Research: Cancer survivorship research seeks to improve the health and well-being of cancer survivors and caregivers providing care to survivors. It aims to improve understanding of the sequelae of cancer and its treatment and to identify methods to prevent and mitigate adverse outcomes, including functional, physical, psychosocial, and economic effects (Figure 2). This research also includes and informs the design, delivery, and implementation of evidence-based strategies and the coordination of healthcare services to optimize survivors’ health and quality of life from the time of diagnosis through the remainder of the survivor’s life. Any cancer survivorship research should clearly identify the type of survivor being studied (e.g. age, type and stage of cancer, time since diagnosis) and the outcomes of the research (e.g. function, quality of life, health care utilization, costs, survival).
Figure 1. Phases of Cancer Survivorship
There are many types of survivors, including those living with cancer and those free of cancer. The experiences and goals of care for each cancer survivor are unique and dynamic. The figure to the left depicts one way to think about the different types of cancer survivors, including those diagnosed with early-stage cancer or advanced cancer and those who are diagnosed with or progress to end-stage cancers.
Mullan F (1985). Seasons of survival: reflection of a physician with cancer. N Engl J Med;313:270–273.
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
Miller K, Merry B, Miller J. Seasons of survivorship revisited. (2008) Cancer J.; 14(6):369-74.
American Cancer Society (2012)
Surbone A & Tralongo, P.. (2016). Categorization of cancer survivors: why we need it. J Clin Oncol;34:3372–3374.
Park ER, Peppercorn J, El-Jawahri A. (2018) Shades of Survivorship. J Natl Compr Canc Netw.;16(10):1163-1165.
Figure 2. Cancer Survivorship Research Framework
This comprehensive, evidence-based framework for cancer survivorship research is applicable to diverse populations of adult cancer survivors, including those who have completed active treatment, may be on adjuvant hormonal therapy, or remain on chronic cancer treatment.
Adapted from Nekhlyudov, L, Mollica, M., Jacobsen, P., Mayer, DK, Shulman, LN, Geiger, AM. (2019). Developing a Quality of Cancer Survivorship Care Framework: Implications for Clinical Care, Research and Policy. JNCI, 111(11): djz089, first published online May 16, 2019.
- Cancer Incidence
- The cancer incidence rate is the number of new cancers of a specific site/type occurring in a specified population during a year, usually expressed as the number of cancers per 100,000 population at risk.1
- Cancer Prevalence
- Cancer prevalence is the number of people alive on a certain date who have been diagnosed with cancer. This includes individuals who are newly diagnosed, in active treatment, have completed active treatment, and those living with progressive symptoms of their disease. Prevalence is derived from long-term incidence and survival rates.1, 2
- Complete Prevalence
- Represents the proportion of people alive on a certain day who previously had a diagnosis of the disease, regardless of how long ago the diagnosis was, or if the patient is still under treatment or is "cured."2
- Limited Duration Prevalence
- Represents the proportion of people alive on a certain day who had a diagnosis of the disease within the past x years (e.g. x = 5, 10, 20, or 25 years).2
- Observed Survival Rate
- The observed survival rate, which is obtained using standard life table procedures, represents the proportion of cancer patients surviving for a specified length of time after diagnosis.1
For other cancer terms, see the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.
1 Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2017, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2017/, based on November 2019 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2020.