Information for Health Care Providers
People are living longer after a cancer diagnosis because of advances in early detection and treatment. After completing treatment, survivors may encounter ongoing or future needs related to their cancer or its treatment.
Cancer survivors are at greater risk than people who have never had cancer of recurrence and of developing second cancers due to—
- The effects of treatment.
- Unhealthy behaviors.
- Underlying genetics.
- Risk factors that contributed to the first cancer.
Survivors also often face physical, emotional, psychosocial, and financial challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Medical and public health professionals can help prepare survivors for the possible long-term and late effects of cancer and its treatment on their physical and psychosocial well-being. They can also provide coordinated care and promote healthy behaviors.
Survivorship Care Plans
Survivorship care plans are documents often given to patients at the end of their cancer treatment. They summarize the patient’s cancer and treatment history; potential long-term effects of cancer or its treatment; and recommended screening, surveillance, preventive care, and follow up. They also identify the health care providers responsible for different aspects of care.
Many survivors are lost to follow up after they complete cancer treatment. Survivorship care plans can help guide communication and coordinate care between survivors and their health care providers. Plans are now included in some programs designed to improve the quality of cancer care.
Whether survivorship care plans improve health outcomes is an active area of research. A recent review of the limited studies to date showed few benefits of care plans, but cancer survivors reported high levels of satisfaction with having the document. More evidence is needed to understand the effect of care plans on health outcomes.