According to a new report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), in 16 years, cancer will become the leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing heart disease. The number of new cancer cases is expected to nearly double by 2030, from 1.6 million cases to roughly 2.3 million cases annually.
In the first report of its kind, ASCO looked at the prevalence of cancer in the United States and its projected rise, as well a number of pitfalls in our current medical system that will make treating these cancer cases increasingly difficult. In fact, the report notes, the field of oncology is under such strain from escalating medical costs and doctor shortages that the Institute of Medicine has called it “a system in crisis” in need of “urgent intervention.”
Key findings from the report cite the following:
High Costs – The cost of cancer care is expected to increase over 60 percent by 2020 and could impede the ability of low-income cancer sufferers to get access to high-quality care.
Less Access to Good Care – Despite millions of uninsured people now having access to coverage through the Affordable Care Act, ASCO isn’t optimistic that it will improve cancer screenings and treatment, “in part because it places significant emphasis on expanding Medicaid coverage, which has been associated with poor outcomes for patients with cancer,” the report states.
A Diminishing Oncology Workforce – The report estimates that demand for oncologists will increase by 42 percent by 2025, but that the number of oncologists will increase by only 28 percent. That deficit is going to make it difficult to treat the growing number of people predicted to get cancer.
Increasingly Complex Care – More treatment options, including more personalized methods of treating cancer, are undeniably a good thing. But learning about all the various treatment options places more strain on an already beleaguered workforce, the report says, and it’s a challenge that needs to be addressed.
While this all seems rather depressing, there is a bit of good news. Despite their prediction that cancer will be the leading killer of Americans, they do note that five-year survival rates for the disease are better than they’ve ever been, increasing 20 percent since 1975. Currently, nearly 70 percent of people diagnosed with cancer are still living five years after their initial diagnosis. Of course, survival presents its own challenges. Cancer survivors are at greater risks for other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and other forms of cancer.
So, what should we take away from this report? Cancer is traumatic and expensive, and your chances of getting good quality care are highly dependent upon a field of medicine that’s facing increasing strain. It is therefore important to take control of your health.
According to the American Cancer Society, research has shown that poor diet and not being active are 2 key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk. Aside from quitting smoking, the more important things you can do to help reduce your risk of cancer are:
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight throughout life.
- Be physically active on a regular basis.
- Make healthy food choices with a focus on plant-based foods.
The evidence for this is strong: Each year, about 585,720 Americans die of cancer; around one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight.