Until you or someone you know has a personal experience with cancer, you probably have a pretty grim – and probably outdated – picture of what a cancer patient or cancer survivor looks like. In reality, however, the population of cancer survivors in the U.S., which is expected to exceed 20 million in the next decade, represents a growing and diverse community of vibrant, active, connected and empowered individuals. 

In order for marketers representing any segment, whether it’s fitness, food or health and wellbeing, or the obvious ones like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, to connect with cancer survivors, they must first gain an accurate picture of the community. 

Here are the five things every marketer should know about cancer survivors today:

1. They’re vast and diverse. The growing cancer survivor community represents all races, regions and socioeconomic backgrounds. Better screening and detection have led to earlier diagnoses in recent years, which has also extended the range of survivors to adolescents and young adults in addition to the middle-aged and older populations most commonly associated with the disease. The takeaway? Cancer can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time in their life. 

2. They’re surviving long after diagnosis. More information about the causes and progression of cancer and innovations in treatment mean that cancer patients today are surviving longer than ever before – in many cases going on to live long, and largely normal, lives after cancer. The five-year average survival rate for all cancers combined has increased substantially in recent decades, while the annual death rate due to cancer has declined 29% from 1991 to 2017. 

3. They’re hungry for information. Research suggests that cancer patients and survivors want to be thoroughly informed on a wide-range of issues related to cancer, including diagnosis, testing, surgery, treatment, clinical trials, supportive care and financial resources. “I want to be able to go to some place where I can just look up on my own and find information and be proactive,” one cancer survivor told SurvivorNet. With more information about cancer causes, preventative measures and treatments available today, many cancer patients feel similarly and are proactively seeking out health resources beyond their oncologist, turning to support communities, online cancer media platforms and groups like the American Cancer Society.   

4.  They’re eager to get back to normal life. While most cancer survivors understandably must cope with the long-term physical and emotional effects of the disease, many are ready to return to normal life – staying active, pursuing their passions and careers, and taking on new hobbies. For example, more than 60% of cancer survivors reportedly engage in regular physical activity in their day-to-day life. 

5. They’re connected to one another. The testimonies of cancer survivors are everywhere today, from social media to talk shows and celebrity forums. The growing number of cancer survivors and the newfound voice of the community has led to deeper connectivity among the many, diverse people who share this unique experience. 

The bottom line

Marketers must forget what they think they know about cancer patients and survivors, and abandon gloomy stereotypes. Many of today’s community of cancer survivors are living long, purpose-driven lives. To connect with this community, marketers should expand their picture of cancer survivors and find ways to inform, empower and unite a diverse and growing segment of the population.