In June, we have the opportunity to celebrate with cancer survivors. Recognizing the journey these individuals have taken and supporting them through phases of diagnosis, recovery, rehabilitation, and a return to “normal” is often our focus as healthcare providers. However, moves in medical literature are beginning to address the need for a healthcare framework that addresses survivorship. What does this look like? Where is our role as healthcare providers in meeting these survivors on the different phases of their journey? How do we change our approach?
At the core, cancer survivorship must address the likelihood of recurrence and new cancers, the physical effects on the individual, the psychosocial effects on the patient and family, management of general health, and maintaining a plan for other chronic conditions (Nekhlyudov et al., 2019). There is a concern that the burden of a comprehensive approach is allocated to a specific provider, be it the primary care or even the oncologist. However, the approach, to be effective, should surpass the practitioner’s specific area of expertise. In understanding a health history, the consideration of survivorship is critical in building a care plan. This fact means that all healthcare professionals need to build a survivorship plan. For these care plans to demonstrate effective outcomes, the role of counseling cannot be minimized. Adherence to comprehensive survivorship plans is directly related to the supports in following the plan while addressing the likelihood of recurrence or complications from other health conditions (Jacobsen et al, 2018). Measurements of quality of life are integral in measuring the effectiveness of the plan and play a role in the patient’s adherence. Assuring critical issues, such as neuropathy and joint pain, which are often concerns voiced in accessing activities that are meaningful generate from conversations that identify what is of value to the patient and their family (van Leeuwen et al., 2018). Building these directly expressed concerns from quality of life measures into the care plan supports the shift for patients that are survivors and challenges practitioners to create comprehensive treatments that meet this unique need.
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