The OncoLink Care Plan
The good news for cancer survivorship is that the numbers are growing, with an estimated 12 million survivors living in the United States today. Unfortunately, cancer treatments are not without consequence and these survivors are dealing with the long term effects of treatments with little guidance. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) researched the state of care for cancer survivors and found that little guidance is available for survivors and their healthcare providers to overcome the medical and psychosocial problems that may arise post treatment.
The IOM suggests that once a person has completed cancer therapy, he or she should be provided with a summary of the treatments received and a follow up "care plan". This care plan should summarize the potential late effects, their symptoms and treatment; recommendations for cancer screening (recurrence or new primary); psychosocial effects (including relationships and sexuality/fertility); financial issues (work, insurance and employment); recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, genetic counseling (if appropriate), effective prevention options; referrals for follow-up care and a list of support resources. While this plan is extremely important, the amount of time it would require makes it unachievable for most oncology practices. The OncoLink Care Plan hopes to take steps to making this a reality by developing a basic plan that survivors can review and discuss with their healthcare team.
While every aspect of the IOM's proposed care plan is important to survivors, The OncoLink Care Plan has decided to focus on a "survivorship care plan" detailing the medical consequences a survivor may face. This document will be individualized based on the answers you provide in a brief questionnaire. In order to develop the most accurate plan of care, you may need to talk to your oncology team to have some details of your cancer therapy available:
This care plan is meant for you to review and discuss with your healthcare team (both oncology and primary care). Keep in mind that every case is different and some side effects vary based on the actual dose of radiation or chemotherapy that were received or the techniques that were used to administer these therapies. It is very important to review your plan of care with the oncology team to further clarify your risk.
The OncoLink Care Plan program is designed for survivors of adult cancers. Childhood cancer survivors have been studied in greater detail and much more is known about the late effects of treatment during childhood development. The Children's Oncology Group website, Cure Search, is a wonderful resource for survivors of childhood cancers. In addition, childhood cancer survivors should encourage their healthcare team to review the extensive guidelines for long term care developed by the Children's Oncology Group.