By: Heather Dommer, ARNP
What Does Survivorship Mean?
Cancer survivorship can mean a lot of things to different people. If you asked everyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer you would likely get as many different answers as the people that you asked. However, the National Cancer Institute (2020) defines cancer survivorship as the focus of the health and well-being of patients diagnosed with cancer from the time of diagnosis until end of life.
Stages of Survivorship
Many times, patients will go through different stages of survivorship. These may include diagnosis, treatment, remission, surveillance, and end of life. According to the American College of Surgeons (2019) the needs of cancer survivors fit into four categories. These include physical, psychological, spiritual, and social. Physical concerns include pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, changes in sexual functioning, nausea/diarrhea/constipation, weight changes, numbness/tingling, and shortness of breath. Psychological concerns include depression, anxiety, body image or appearance, and fear of recurrence. Spiritual concerns include a loss of hope or meaning of life. Social concerns include financial, insurance, housing, transportation, and family relationships.
Survivorship Starts at Diagnosis
At the Nassif Community Cancer Center, we believe that survivorship starts at the time of diagnosis. The services that we offer are open to all patients that have a cancer diagnosis, no matter where they are at in their survivorship journey. A specialized survivorship visit is offered to all patients that have completed their acute treatment. A written survivorship care plan is prepared and reviewed at the visit.
During this specialized visit the nurse practitioner reviews the treatment the patient has had. They will also go over the cancer surveillance and screening plan, assess for side effects from treatment, and educate about signs and symptoms of recurrence.
The nurse practitioner will review healthy recommendations for living beyond cancer and make referrals to help improve a cancer survivor’s quality of life. The nurse practitioner also reviews all the services available in the Cancer Center. Most cancer survivors find this visit to be very beneficial. It sets in motion a plan of what comes next. It also helps to incorporate all the patient’s providers and communicates the plan to everyone.
Over the next several months you will continue to see a monthly article from survivorship in the Community Cancer Center’s newsletter. These articles will focus on many of the different concerns that survivors face every day. We hope that you find this information helpful.
If you need further assistance or would like to schedule a survivorship visit, please call our front desk at 319-558-4876.
American College of Surgeons. Commission on Cancer. 2019. Webinar Series: Meeting the 2020 Standards for Optimal Cancer Care. (Online). Available: https://learning.facs.org/content/survivorship-program-standard-48
NCI (National Cancer Institute). 2020. Survivorship Definition. (Online). Available: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/survivorship (accessed September 29, 2020).