What Survivors Need
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
FEBRUARY 09, 2017
This topic could fill a book--and wait, it already has! (a shameless plug here for my book After Breast Cancer: A Commonsense Guide to Life after Treatment. There are a couple of chapters that are breast cancer specific, but most of it is relevant for anyone). Today's contribution, however, is a nice article from Cure Today that discusses events from a recent conference on survivorship.
It opens with a discussion of the heavily-discussed Survivorship Care Plan. This is a document that is supposed to be given to all patients when they complete treatment that is aimed at cure. It includes specific, albeit brief, details of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and any other treatment that was given. The idea is that the patient has a nice summary of what has happened, and that the information can be easily shared with other doctors involved then or in the future with her care. Although this is now a mandate from a major accreditation group, it is very difficult for hospitals to organize and deliver. At BID, I have been working on this with a small group of colleagues for literally years, and we still don't have a working document or system. The issues can be reduced to resources--meaning usually time and money and staff.
Here is the start and then a link to read more:
What Survivors Need
At this weekend's 2017 Cancer Survivorship Symposium, the discussion
focused on what survivors need, when and with whom. The list of survivors’
follow-up needs is long, and, because cancer affects each person
differently, distinct to the person and his or her cancer and treatment.
So where to start. The first thing a survivor needs when treatment ends is a Survivorship Care Plan. While this document should be begin with the day of diagnosis, it is currently given as an exit interview for the patient and gives all the details about the cancer and treatment, including date and stage of cancer at diagnosis and any details that may have affected treatment such as family, economic standing, etc. It looks at physical, emotional, and social needs, and, depending on the template, other issues such as employment.
Critical information on the plan is a listing of the drugs used in treatment and dosage because as time goes on, we are learning more information about late effects of drugs and/or radiation. For example, we know now that some drugs cause second cancers, and patients who had those drugs need to be followed closely. We know that radiation to certain parts of the body may diminish muscles and blood flow over time as atrophy occurs.
It is so logical that a patient would finish treatment with this document, and yet the vast majority don’t – in part because it is not offered. If this is the case for you, ask your oncologist to create one or print off an online template and do your own. There are multiple templates for care plans, but I recommend the one from Cancer.net, the website of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.