By: Dr. Sue Mandell, Medical Director, TCCC
I am often asked by many of my patients why they should attend the Survivorship Clinic established here at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. Before answering that question in detail, let’s look at the national statistics regarding survivors.
According to the National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, it is estimated by 2026 that the number of cancer survivors will increase by 30% to 20.3 million people. By 2040 it is projected that 26.1 million people will survive cancer and 73% of those will be 65 years or older. In 2016 alone, 67% of survivors have survived 5 years or more after diagnosis and 44% have survived 10 years or more with 17% having survived 20 years or more.
Cancer and its treatment may result in long lasting or late onset effects. Based on the above numbers, we now recognize the need to assess these patients. By attending a survivorship clinic appointment, you will learn about your treatment history and be given specific recommendations to prevent late effects from your cancer and treatment such as lymphedema, fatigue, and heart disease. The knowledge gained from learning about your previous treatment will help you understand your future health risks as well as educate you regarding those risks; how to prevent them as well as how to manage them. Copies of your cancer treatment summary and survivorship care plan and any recommendations made during that appointment will be shared with your entire healthcare team including your cancer specialists and primary care physician.
What is important to understand is that attending the survivorship clinic does not provide surveillance for cancer recurrence. Your oncologist will continue to watch and monitor you. However during your survivorship clinic visit you will receive a comprehensive medical examination, have explained the late and long-term effects of your cancer and treatment, receive recommendations on healthy lifestyle behaviors to reduce complications and lower your risk of additional cancers as well as be provided with an individualized cancer treatment summary and a survivorship care plan.
As we grow our program beyond patients with a history of breast cancer, our goal is to offer expert assistance to all patients transitioning from active treatment today to living as a cancer survivor. We hope all patients transitioning will utilize our survivorship clinic. After all it is now about living your life.