Cancer survivorship may have a myriad of meanings for different individuals and appear as a reductionist approach with an unwanted focus on the disease to some. However, it is a useful concept for consumer advocates, heath care providers and researchers to examine the ongoing and long-term needs of people who had cancer, and to develop the best services for a patient-centered, evidence-based, integrated health care system (as well as society in general).
Dramatic improvements in cancer treatments have led to greater chances of survival and an ever increasing number of cancer survivors. Despite this, a diagnosis of cancer still focuses individuals to think about death and then fear of recurrence. This diagnosis as well as the consequences of cancer treatments, whether they are physical or psychological, may have strong influences on the ways that people live after the cancer diagnosis in terms of their relationships with family and friends or work opportunities. This may also lead to fundamental changes in the individuals’ own sense of identity because of the multiples losses (including the loss of power), grief and the re-appraisal of their own values and priorities.
The diversity of cancer survivor needs, depending on the type and the stage of cancer and the socio-economic conditions, requires an holistic approach that integrates individualised and coordinated medical and psychosocial care with special attention to certain groups: medical care (with appropriate follow-up to identify and manage possible recurrences and adverse effects of therapies), psycho-social care that involves all stakeholders (e.g. to facilitate return to work, to offer a diversity of support options for individuals and their families), and to respond to the specific needs of groups most at risk of poorer survivorship such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders population, children, rural inhabitants, and the cultural and linguistically diverse populations.