Do You Have a Survivorship Care Plan?
Fortunately, the number of cancer survivors are increasing. However, cancer treatments are not without consequence and survivors must deal with the long-term effects of treatment.
The benefits of a survivorship care plan
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) researched the state of care for cancer survivors and found that little guidance is available for survivors. In 2006, the IOM issued a report recommending that every cancer patient receive an individualized survivorship care plan that includes guidelines for monitoring and maintaining their health. This care plan should summarize the potential late effects of cancer treatment, their prevention, signs and symptoms and treatment, recommendations for any other cancer screenings, psychosocial effects, financial issues, recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, genetic counseling, referrals for follow-up care and a list of support resources.1
As a nurse educator and cancer survivor, I remember reading about the importance of a survivorship care plan and questioned my oncology nurse practitioner. It had not been the current practice in the oncology office, but she agreed to complete one when I gave her a sample.
While this plan is extremely important, the resources required to complete it have made it hard to incorporate into practice.
A multicenter, randomized study of hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) patients looked at the effects of receiving a personalized survivorship care plan. The study evaluated a number of factors, including treatment-related distress. Ultimately, the study found that patients who received a post-transplant survivorship care plan had reduced amounts of treatment distress compared to those patients that underwent routine post-transplant care with a survivorship care plan.2 This research emphasizes the positive effects of a survivorship care plan.
Creating your survivorship care plan
Your oncologist or a member of your healthcare team should give you a written summary of the treatment that you received. I have kept mine in a binder with my medical records and have given a copy to my primary care physician. The following information should be included in the survivorship care plan:
- The date of diagnosis, type and stage of cancer, and any the pathology reports.
- Dates of each treatment, details of any surgeries, amounts of radiation therapy, name and dose of chemotherapy.
- Key lab and imaging reports, including CT scans and MRI reports.
- Signs and symptoms to watch for and a list of possible long-term effects of treatment.
- Contact information for all healthcare personnel involved in your treatment.
- Any problems that occurred during or after treatment.
- Any supportive care you received during treatment (such as medications for depression or pain, nutritional supplements, etc.).
Getting involved with my follow-up care was a good way to regain some of the control that I lost during my cancer treatment. Knowing what to expect after cancer treatment can help you make plans, lifestyle changes and important decisions about your future. I encourage you to talk with your healthcare team about a survivorship care plan.
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