Every year, millions of people across the globe come together to celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day, a day dedicated to honoring cancer survivors. Observed the first Sunday in June, the day is an initiative to honor and celebrate the millions of cancer survivors worldwide. It’s a day of camaraderie, hope, and inspiration for everyone who has faced or is facing this challenging situation. It’s also focused on raising awareness of survivors’ challenges and celebrating their resilience journey.
National Cancer Survivors Day was first observed in 1987 by the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation (NCSD). The nonprofit organization dedicates its resources to improving cancer survivors’ quality of life by providing resources, education, and advocacy. The celebration is intended to bring awareness to the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that survivors continue to face well after the completion of their treatments.
The Significance of National Cancer Survivors Day
The National Cancer Institute projects that cancer survivors will increase to 22.2 million by 2030. The upward trend in survival rates is largely due to advancements in cancer research and treatments. For example, innovations in immunotherapy, precision medicine, and molecular targeting have substantially improved outcomes for several cancer types.
As the number of survivors grows, so does the need for resources and support. Celebrations and events during National Cancer Survivors Day highlight that life after a cancer diagnosis can be a reality. It’s a powerful reminder for people recently diagnosed with cancer that they are not alone and that a vibrant community of survivors can provide support, advice, and hope.
Communities around the world celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day in unique ways. Some survivors spend the day privately, reflecting on their journey, while others celebrate publicly, sharing their stories to inspire those just beginning their cancer journey.
Celebrations hosted by hospitals, support groups, and other organizations often include inspirational speeches from survivors, candle-lit vigils, community walks, and other fundraising activities. These events acknowledge survivors’ challenges, commemorate the lives lost to cancer, and fundraise for ongoing cancer research and support services.
The Challenges Faced By Cancer Survivors
Cancer survivors face unique challenges related to their physical and mental health. Post-treatment issues, like “chemo brain,” fatigue, emotional distress, and long-term side effects, are some of the situations they encounter. In addition, survivors may also experience social and economic burdens, including employment difficulties and insurance obstacles.
The Importance of Support Systems
Support systems, emotional and logistical, are a critical part of a cancer survivor’s journey. Families, friends, support groups, and healthcare professionals can provide an invaluable lifeline to those affected by cancer. It is critical to strengthen these networks to ensure survivors don’t feel alone and have the necessary resources.
The Vail Health Shaw Cancer Center’s Spirit of Survival programs is an excellent example of a healthcare support system. It offers clinical care, education, and support services to empower and support Shaw cancer patients and survivors. The comprehensive program includes fitness classes, physical therapy, emotional counseling, nutritional consults, alternative therapies, and other wellness services — all free of charge. In 2022 alone, the Spirit of Survival program provided wellness services for hundreds of patients, totaling 6,224 patient visits altogether!
The Future of Cancer Survivorship
While NCSD celebrates the victories of cancer survivors, it also serves as a catalyst for change. The day is a reminder of the ongoing challenges survivors face and highlights the need for further research, better treatment options, and increased advocacy for survivor rights and benefits.
The American Association for Cancer Research is actively working on initiatives to improve survival rates and quality of life for cancer survivors. From developing new therapies to understanding long-term effects, the focus is on making survivorship less challenging.
Early Detection Is Crucial for Cancer Survivorship
Cancer screening is vital to increased cancer survivor rates. Screenings facilitate early detection and treatment. Regular screenings can help detect cancer early, before symptoms even appear, which increases the chances of successful treatment and recovery.
In addition, cancer screenings can help identify individuals at high risk of developing cancer due to family history or certain genetic mutations (like BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations for breast and ovarian cancer). Screening enables people at high risk to be monitored more closely and may provide benefits from prophylactic treatments or lifestyle changes to reduce their risk.
Some cancer screenings can even prevent cancer from developing. For instance, a colonoscopy can detect precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, which can be removed before they become cancerous.
Shaw Cancer Center Is Ready To Help
Contact your primary care provider to schedule a screening if you’re experiencing any cancer symptoms or are predisposed due to family history. Our multidisciplinary team at the Shaw Cancer Center provides comprehensive care to support you in all stages of your cancer journey. You can also support our Spirit of Survival programs with a generous donation to empower our cancer patients and survivors. Give by June 30 and your gift will be matched!
This article was reviewed by Suzanne Torris, MS, RN, FNP.