We celebrate because being a cancer survivor is a special thing! It was just a couple of generations ago that very few people survived long after a cancer diagnoses.
Cancer survivorship is on the rise due to both improved early detection of cancer, as well as advancements in cancer treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 18 million cancer survivors living in the United States by the year 2020. Today in the United States there are more than 14 million people living with a history of cancer—that’s a huge increase we expect in just 4 years!
Completing treatment can be a scary and unsettling time just as much as it can be an exciting and happy one-- there is often a feeling of, “OK, now what?” Patients don’t always know what to expect, what ongoing health conditions or symptoms to watch for, or how to best care for themselves going forward.
To help patients feel confident and informed as they go on with their post-cancer-treatment life, Deaconess Cancer Services now provides patients with a comprehensive care summary and follow up plan. The need for self-care, preventive care and knowledge about their particular circumstance does not end on the last day of treatment--it continues throughout their lifetime, and is something we are striving to provide for all of our patients.
Oncology Survivorship Nurse Navigators can play an important role in the care of the patient. The need for preventive and ongoing medical treatment requires close monitoring and coordination to ensure patients are provided with the appropriate resources and information.
My role as the Survivorship Nurse Navigator has various aspects that make it unique to the Tri-State area. Once a person has completed their primary treatment, I develop and finalize their individualized Survivorship Care Plan/After Treatment Summary based on the treatment they received. The patient’s oncology physician and I review the plan and discuss the recommended follow up based on the national guidelines based on the patient’s diagnosis and treatment.
After the patient’s physician has signed off on the plan, I present this to the patient, as well as their family or friends if present, and we discuss any questions the patient/family might have, the treatment received, any ongoing side effects, the plan going forward for follow-up, as well as the importance of routine screenings and keeping in touch with their primary care physician.
The goal of developing a cancer survivorship program is to raise awareness related to the needs of cancer survivors and their well-being, and to ensure the delivery of appropriate survivorship care to our patients. As the survivorship oncology nurse navigator, it is my role to be there for the patients as well as their families as they navigate through the next phase of their journey.