By: Lisa C.S. Rootvik, ARNP, Director of Cancer Survivorship
A “cancer survivor” is any person who has a history of cancer, from the time they are diagnosed through the remainder of their life. More than 350,000 cancer survivors are currently living in Washington State and there are more than 15 million cancer survivors nationwide. It is estimated that by 2026 there will be 20.3 million cancer survivors alive in the US!
There is no singular path through cancer survivorship. The experience varies for each person. After treatment some patients live cancer-free and symptom-free for the rest of their lives. Others may also live cancer-free for the rest of their lives, but experience late or long term side effects from treatment that affect their quality of life. Some patients have a relapse of their original cancer. Some patients may develop a second cancer. Some cancer patients may have intermittent treatment. Still others may live every day with cancer, with or without treatment.
Although cancer survivorship looks and feels different to every person who experiences it, there are a few common elements, especially for patients who have completed treatment. Every cancer patient has had their life changed in some way by the diagnosis of cancer. Every cancer patient needs to understand their diagnosis and the treatment(s) they have undergone, the possible late and long term side effects from their treatment(s), how their past medical history may affect their future, how to take care of themselves, and how to have the best quality of life possible. Every patient who has completed treatment for their cancer needs to receive a Survivorship Care Plan.
A Survivorship Care Plan is a document that contains a Cancer Treatment Summary and a Follow-up Care Plan. The Cancer Treatment Summary is a brief and concisely written description of each cancer diagnosis experienced by the patient, including factors that affected the selection of treatment(s). It also includes the details of treatment, complications, and ongoing treatment or management required. The Follow-up Care Plan is action-focused and includes all the patient’s health care providers, a list of surveillance recommendations, descriptions of late and long term side effects to look for and how the patient should care for themselves after treatment.
Receiving a Survivorship Care Plan is a part of routine oncology care. At the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Survivorship, Care Plans are given in our Survivorship Clinic by an oncology provider (that’s me!) during a one-on-one office visit. I spend up to 60 minutes with each patient, not only reviewing all of the information in the Survivorship Care Plan, but also taking all the time needed to answer questions, clarify details and to assess any physical, emotional, social, occupational, lifestyle or spiritual needs the patient may have. Resources are discussed and referrals are made as necessary. Additionally, all of the patient’s health care providers are sent a copy of this concise and easily understood document so that they also know how to take care of the patient going forward.
At the beginning of Survivorship Clinic visits, patients often question whether or not they will find the visit beneficial. However, over and over again, patients tell me at the end of the visit that they are very thankful that we have this program. They nearly always learn something new, are pleased to take home their Survivorship Care Plan and are glad that they came to the visit.
I feel gratitude every day to have the opportunity to work one-on-one with cancer patients and their families during this important transition in their lives. As a community, we are extremely lucky to have a Cancer Center that supports this necessary part of oncology care. With this support, the Survivorship Clinic team is able to work hard at providing the very best Survivorship Care possible for each patient we see.
If you are interested in being seen for a visit or have questions about the Survivorship Clinic, please feel free to contact my nurse, Rebecca, at (509) 737-3483 or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please join us for our free upcoming Survivorship Education Day 2019: Hope Grows Here! (see the event info at tccancer.org/hgh)
If you ever need any help navigating your survivorship experience, know that I am always here to help. During the month of June, and all year long, I extend warm wishes for happiness and the best health possible to each and every one of our community’s survivors.
Comments from the Survivorship Program:
“The survivorship visit was very informative. I wasn’t sure what to expect but am glad I took part in it.”
“Today’s appointment was very helpful. Very clear information and the tools to go forward.”
“Such a meaningful appointment. Thank you!”
“This is a great resource! And so much information covered, so useful. I really wish I would have had it sooner!!”
“I found today’s visit very helpful and now feel a clearer path forward. Thank you.”
“The information was explained very well. I liked the format of the info. And pleased with having it to look at in case I forget.”
“I found the session very helpful. Clarified some things. Introduced new info and good to have a face to address questions to.”
“Lisa was very knowledgeable and had many resources she shared. She answered all my questions. She showed great compassion and sensitivity to my needs. I would highly recommend Lisa to all people looking for support, education and compassionate care.”