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National Cancer Institute

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Julia Rowland, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Cancer Survivorship
National Cancer Institute

The Office of Cancer Survivorship (OCS) was established in 1996 and has been at the forefront of championing research on the effects of cancer and its treatment for the growing population of cancer survivors. The OCS supports and directs cancer survivorship research on issues including the nature of follow-up care for survivors, the impact of survivorship on families, and ways to improve the length and quality of life of people treated for cancer.

In 1971, there were approximately 3 million cancer survivors; by 2003, that number had risen to more than 10 million. Most cancer survivors are over 65 years old (60 percent) and, as the population ages, the numbers of survivors will increase. In 1986, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) was established to provide a focus on cancer care from the patient's perspective, including cancer survivorship. In 1996, NCCS published Imperative for Quality Cancer Care: Access, Advocacy and Accountability, the first report on cancer survivorship. NCCS member activities led to the creation of the OCS.

Over the last decade, the OCS and the broader field of cancer survivorship research has flourished because of the efforts of researchers from many different disciplines, as well as survivors, health care practitioners, and advocates. There are currently over 230 grants funded across the many Institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that examine the health and well-being of cancer survivors who are post-treatment for their own disease and/or for their family member's illness. Most grants (50 percent) are for descriptive or prospective research that describes the consequences of surviving cancer; 36 percent of the grants fund intervention research. The most common late or long-term effects studied include psychological distress, fatigue, health behaviors, neurocognitive function, organ functions, reproduction, recurrence, and second cancers. The number of grants supported by OCS increased from 9 in 1998 to 127 in 2005. As cancer survivors live longer after diagnosis, the importance of assessing health behaviors in this population and how they affect quality of life becomes increasingly important.

The American Cancer Society and Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) were co-sponsors and partners for this meeting. The LAF also co-sponsored the Survivorship-Researcher Mentor Program, which paired 18 cancer survivors, advocates, and community leaders with 10 scientists who mentor them during the course of the meeting. The mentees participated in discussions with the scientists and took back the information they gathered to their advocacy groups or to other cancer survivors. This meeting was expected to help disseminate knowledge by describing advances in enhancing quality of life and survivorship after cancer.

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