What is Survivorship?

By: Lisa C.S. Rootvik, ARNP, Survivorship Clinic Coordinator

Hi! I’m Lisa C.S. Rootvik, ARNP, an Oncology Nurse Practitioner who has worked in the field  Hi! I’m Lisa C.S. Rootvik, ARNP, an Oncology Nurse Practitioner who has worked in the field of oncology for more than a decade. In my new role at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, I am creating a comprehensive Survivorship Program for our entire region. Today I want to share with you some information about survivorship and why a Survivorship Clinic visit is an important final step for survivors after completing curative treatment for cancer.

The journey from diagnosis to cure for cancer patients can be complex, confusing, and involve multiple providers at different institutions. Each patient’s pathway varies based on cancer diagnosis, stage, and pathology, as well as genetics, the patient’s other current medical conditions, and patient preferences. Pathways may include interventions such as surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Each of these interventions has potential short-term and long-term side effects. And each cancer has a different way that patients are monitored in follow-up. With all of these variables, each survivor’s journey is unique and each survivor has done the incredible…survived cancer!

There are an estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S., with more than 350,000 in Washington State alone. In recent years, oncology providers in the U.S. have recognized that survivors require unique, individualized care. The concept of “survivorship” is about helping patients have the best quality and length of life after treatment is completed.

Becoming a survivor often comes with challenges. Being diagnosed with and treated for cancer is a major life event that can affect patients mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. It can affect a patient’s ability to work, affect personal relationships, and change the way a person sees themselves. After all cancer treatments are completed, it is common for patients to feel that they are not the same person they were before they were diagnosed. They are often left wondering, “What’s next?” This question is answered for survivors at a Survivorship Clinic visit!

Survivorship Clinic visits last approximately one hour. During a survivorship visit, I review and summarize all aspects of the patient’s cancer treatment, work with patients to identify and manage side effects of treatment, discuss potential long-term complications from treatment (including others cancers), educate patients on how to avoid, as well as detect, a cancer recurrence or new cancer, and encourage the development of healthy habits for overall health and well-being. Survivors leave my office with all of this information in a concise document called a Survivorship Care Plan. A copy of the Survivorship Care Plan is also sent to their primary care provider, and any other provider they wish.

The Institute of Medicine and Commission on Cancer recommend that all patients treated with curative intent receive a Survivorship Care Plan once treatment is completed. At the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, we believe that a Survivorship Clinic visit ensures that survivors fully understand their Survivorship Care Plan and that their individual needs and concerns are addressed. With the field of oncology changing and advancing at such a rapid pace, I want to make sure that each survivor and their providers know how to best care for the survivor. I also know that survivors can be empowered to be their own best advocates through the education they receive at their Survivorship Clinic visit.

I believe that each survivor in the Tri-Cities deserves not only the best cancer care, but the best survivorship care as well. I look forward to working with survivors and our community to grow our Survivorship Clinic, and further develop our comprehensive Survivorship Program, providing the best survivorship care right here at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center!

Lisa has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She became a Registered Nurse in 2004 and a board certified Adult Nurse Practitioner in 2009. She has dedicated her entire career in medicine to caring for patients with cancer and blood disorders and is thrilled to have the opportunity to create a comprehensive Survivorship Program for the residents of this community.

Survivorship Clinic updates will be posted in this newsletter and on the website. Ideally we like to see patients within 3-6 months of treatment completion but understand that there are many survivors who may benefit from a visit even after that time frame. Please ask your provider for a referral or call the Survivorship Clinic Coordinator, Sonia Rodriguez, at (509) 737-3442 if you have any questions about setting up a visit.

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