Helping Cancer Survivors Get the Best Care

ASCO releases report and action plan for improving and standardizing cancer survivor care

(RxWiki News) More people are alive after battling cancer than ever before in this country. We have more than 13 million cancer survivors – something to celebrate! Now, caring for the ongoing and long-term needs of these winners must become a focus.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has released what it calls a “roadmap” for taking better care of the millions of cancer survivors in this country. The document offers a wide range of recommendations for patients, healthcare providers, researchers and policy makers.

"Develop a follow-up plan of action after cancer."

ASCO developed this report to “enhance and standardize the long-term follow-up care of cancer survivors,” the authors wrote. The goal of this effort is to help former cancer patients and their healthcare providers build a framework so the best ongoing care possible can be delivered.

Having cancer and being treated for cancer changes the body. The time just after active treatment is particularly important for long-term health and wellness. It’s the time for patients to learn and plan for what lies ahead in terms of care, adjuvant (after active treatment) therapy and follow-up visits with their providers, including primary care doctors. Survivors also need to know what increased health risks they may have.

"Most patients still want to see their oncologists even after they have finished active treatment. Oncologists are well positioned to lead and develop a strategy for coordinating follow-up care with primary care providers," said Sandra Swain, MD, FACP, ASCO president. 

Here is the ASCO action plan for cancer survivor care:

  • Promote a model of collaborated care that involves a number of health professionals who work together to meet the individual needs of patients.
  • Encourage more research on the long-term and late effects of cancer and its treatment with the goal of detailing optimal care for survivors.
  • Educate providers about the long-term needs of cancer survivors.
  • Educate survivors and their families about how to work within the healthcare system to get the care they need.
  • Improve adherence to quality improvement programs, including ASCO's Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI), which helps clinicians track and improve survivor care.

"Our recommendations apply well beyond the immediate oncology community,” Mary McCabe, RN, MA, chair of ASCO's Survivorship Committee and Director of the Cancer Survivorship Initiative at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said in a statement. “As many patients transition back to their primary care and other providers, it is imperative that all healthcare professionals collaborate to ensure optimal care," McCabe said.

The group is also working to develop quality measures and clinical guidelines for survivor care. ASCO is also working with policy makers to ensure cancer survivor care remains a focus in the changing healthcare environment.

This report was published January 7 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
January 11, 2013