Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Finished with Cancer Treatment…Now What?! Creating Your Cancer Survivorship Care Plan!

By Tambre Leighn, MA, CPC, ELI-MP (guest blogger)
Ring the bell, hug the nurses goodbye.  Part of you is celebrating and another part is wondering, now what?

A recent report by the Center for Disease Control, announced the great news that overall trends show lives lost to cancer are decreasing.[1]  This corollary of this is that more people are living longer as survivors…often dealing with significant challenges as a result of their cancer or treatments.

Finally, there is an increasing awareness that while the end of treatment is a milestone, it is not the finish line and, in many ways, it is just the beginning of not only recovery from cancer but recovery of your life. 

Now what?  A cancer survivorship care plan is a great place to start.  It’s now considered standard of care according to the Commission on Cancer 2012 New Cancer Program Standards The Future of Quality Cancer Care.[2]  This is new territory.   It will take time to develop guidelines, systems and processes to support the implementation of this new tool for survivors.

Being proactive requires self-advocacy, which, in turn, requires knowledge.  A basic survivorship care plan includes the following elements:
  •  An organized, thorough and accessible personal health record summarizing the history of your care  including scans, test results, treatment plans, etc.  This personal health record should be portable so that you can bring it to future appointments.  It can be in the format of well-organized physical documents, created using personal health record software – or a mixture of both.
  •   A schedule of follow up care including information on potential late effects of treatment
  •  Guidelines for well being including physical, emotional and financial along with an outline of resources to support you.
If your medical team has not provided you with a care plan even though you’re coming up on the end of treatment or you’re finished, it is up to you to ask.  For more information, check out Livestrong http://www.livestrongcareplan.org/ (also available in Spanish) and my blog post, Survivorship Care Plans ~ Empowerment Through Awarenes.

[1] Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2009 http://seer.cancer.gov/report_to_nation/
[2] www.wicancer.org/documents/McKellar_1245pm.ppt

This blog post is part of the Resource Roundup series sponsored by Cancer Blog: Lots To Live For! in which the spotlight is shined on a resource that can help improve the journeys of cancer patients and caregivers. Past Resource Roundup stars have included the Annie Appleseed Project, Imerman Angels and Caring Bridge.