What CDC Is Doing to Help Cancer Survivors

Partial screen shot of the United States Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool, showing five-year relative survival by sex and race for all types of cancer combined. 65.9% of white males live five years after being diagnosed with cancer, compared with 66.6% of white females, 63.1% of black males, 58.0% of black females, 60.8% of males of other races, and 69.2% of females of other races.

You can see relative cancer survival rates in the United States Cancer Statistics: Data Visualizations tool.

CDC works with public, non-profit, and private partners to develop and implement ways to help the growing number of cancer survivors in the United States.


CDC helps tracks how many people live five years or longer after diagnosis with different kinds of cancer. The United States Cancer Statistics: Data Visualizations tool shows relative survival rates for different cancers and different demographic groups, for the nation and by state.

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) provides state-specific benchmarks for cancer prevention (tobacco use, nutrition, physical activity, and obesity) and early detection (mammograms and cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancer screening tests). The BRFSS also provides state-level data to help public health professionals determine cancer prevalence in their states.

The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) collects data on issues of importance to cancer survivors. Questions address topics such as cancer prevention (nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco and alcohol use) and early detection practices (such as cancer screening). The NHIS provides much-needed data on how cancer survivors are doing in the United States and guides the development of new programs and policies for cancer survivors at the national level.

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)external icon is a nationwide survey that represents people of all ages in the United States, conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).external icon Through five rounds of in-person interviews over a two-year period, this survey collects information about how people use health care and the amount of money they spend on health care. MEPS is completed by people who participated in the NHIS the year before. It includes a special set of questionsexternal icon for people who have cancer. CDC is working with AHRQ and other partners to analyze responses to cancer survivorship questions to examine quality of life and the cost of cancer care.

National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program

CDC’s National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program encourages its awardees to pay special attention to the needs of cancer survivors and their families in their communities. For example, the Wyoming Comprehensive Cancer Control Consortium developed Camp Courage Wyoming, an annual, week-long camp experience offered free of charge to the families of children with cancer.


CDC supports, designs, implements, disseminates, and evaluates public health research to assess the needs of cancer survivors and caregivers. See a list of CDC’s most recent research on cancer survivorship.

In a special supplement in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, CDC scientists and partners introduced the Public Health Action Model for Cancer Survivorship. This model provides a framework for meeting Healthy People 2020 objectives to increase the percentage of survivors who live five years or longer after their diagnosis, and to improve survivors’ mental and physical health.

National Cancer Survivorship Resource Center

CDC funds the National Cancer Survivorship Resource Center,external icon a collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the George Washington University Cancer Institute. The center develops and distributes a broad range of informational materials, including clinical care guidance and provider education materials. It also promotes healthy behaviors to reduce late and long-term effects of cancer and its treatment.

The National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship

Cover of the National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship

In 2002 and 2003, CDC and the LIVESTRONG Foundationexternal icon led a public health effort to address the issues faced by the growing number of cancer survivors living with, through, and beyond cancer. Through their collaboration, A National Action Plan for Cancer Survivorship: Advancing Public Health Strategiespdf icon[PDF-1MB] was developed.

The National Action Plan identifies and prioritizes the needs of cancer survivors and proposes strategies for meeting those needs within four core public health domains–

  • Surveillance and applied research.
  • Communication, education, and training.
  • Programs, policies, and infrastructure.
  • Access to quality care and services.

The National Action Plan helped raise awareness of the role that public health agencies can play in addressing the concerns of cancer survivors, and the need for organizations that want to improve the lives of cancer survivors to take coordinated action.