Cancer is the leading cause of death in Vermont. Cancer is any
disease where uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells occurs in the
body. Cancer develops gradually as a result of many different factors related
to lifestyle choices, environment and genetics. Anyone can develop cancer,
including children; however, the risk of being diagnosed with cancer increases
with age, and most cancers occur in adults who are older. Personal behaviors
such as tobacco use, alcohol use, diet, physical inactivity, and overexposure
to sunlight can increase the risk of developing certain cancers. Nearly
two-thirds of cancer deaths in the U.S. can be linked to tobacco use, poor
diet, obesity, and lack of exercise. When cancer is found and treated early, a
person’s chance for survival is much better. Screening tests, including those
available for breast, cervical, and colorectal and lung cancers, help to detect
cancer at an early stage when treatment works best.
Cancer is very common. Roughly four out of 10 men and women in
the U.S. will develop cancer in their lifetime. As Vermont and the nation’s
population ages, the occurrence of new cancer cases is expected to increase.
With treatment advances, people are living longer with a cancer diagnosis.
Cancer prevalence is the number of people alive today who have
ever been diagnosed with cancer, excluding melanoma and other skin cancers.
This includes individuals who are newly diagnosed, in active treatment, have
completed active treatment, and those living with progressive symptoms of their
disease. Approximately 35,000 adult Vermonters (7%) are living with a current
or previous diagnosis of a non-skin cancer (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance
System (BRFSS), 2015). There are no significant differences in the proportion
of cancer survivors living in different counties in Vermont. Cancer prevalence
among Vermonters has not changed significantly since 2010.
Cancer survivors face unique challenges to
physical health and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Survivors may also
need ongoing monitoring for cancer recurrence and the development of new
cancers. Cancer survivors are equally or
more likely to present with other chronic conditions or risk factors such as
tobacco use, obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity. These and
other risk factors increase subsequent cancer risk, poor treatment outcomes and
cause additional physical distress during cancer treatment and follow-up care.
Survivors need access to a variety of
resources to manage the physical and psychological issues that may develop or
persist following treatment. This
includes the provision of regular follow-up care such as routine checkups and
other cancer screenings to detect new or returning cancers early, identify side
effects of cancer treatment, and reinforce preventive behaviors such as tobacco
cessation, increased physical activity and improved nutrition.