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Survivorship Planning for Cancer Survivors


Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Tue, Feb 25th 2014

The term "survivorship planning" wasn't even on our radar in the realm of cancer care until recently, when the ranks of cancer survivors began to grow. A 2012 report by the American Cancer Society estimated that 13.7 million Americans were cancer survivors and that this number will grow to 18 million by 2022.

female wearing pink bandanaAlthough we wish that cancer didn't exist at all, this is wonderful news. It's heartening to know that we now need to think about planning for cancer survivorship. The entire idea exudes hope - and even the expectation - that a person with cancer can indeed beat it.

What is survivorship planning? In essence, it's the process of developing a road map to manage issues that often arise after beating cancer, such as anxiety, depression, changes in physical and sexual functioning, sleep challenges, and more. One way to think of survivorship planning is to consider the seven dimensions of wellness I write about in this blog: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, vocational, and environmental (for more details about these dimensions, see my original blog post in this topic). Cancer survivors need to think about how to nurture and maintain each of these wellness dimensions.

Survivorship plans are often written out in the form of goals, action items, and resources that provide services and additional information. If this sounds daunting to you, no worries - you don't have to do this alone. Many cancer centers already provide survivorship planning assistance. In fact, the Commission on Cancer recently notified cancer treatment centers that they must incorporate survivorship planning into their protocols in order to receive certification in 2015. This is a big deal because it means that cancer treatment centers will in part be evaluated and paid on the basis of how well they address their patients' survivorship plans.

But if you're a cancer survivor without a survivorship plan and would like to get rolling on this on your own, here are some resources that can help:

  • MentalHelp.net Cancer Topic Center: Provides detailed information about cancer and how a diagnosis of cancer intersects with mental health and well-being. The topic center can be helpful when planning for the emotional aspects of survivorship.
  • LiveStrong Survivorship Care Plan: Outlines five steps to developing a comprehensive cancer survivorship plan, including recording your medical history, obtaining a treatment plan summary from your health care team, creating a follow-up care plan, asking your health care team to address your specific questions and concerns, and maintaining ongoing communication with your health care team. It also includes a link to its own survivorship planning tool.
  • American Cancer Society: This link provides a list of the most well-regarded cancer survivorship planning tools and how to access them.

If you are a cancer survivor, or know someone who has beaten cancer, are you familiar with the concept of survivorship planning? If so, please share what tools and resources you used along with any tips for creating a cancer survivorship plan that works. By sharing your own experiences, you are helping others. Thank you!

 

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.

Itís a true blessing to have you visit my blog on mental health and wellness. I also write blogs on faith and caregiving in addition to teaching part-time for Columbia College of Missouri. For more information about my background and writing, visit my webpage at carriesteckl.com.

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