Cancer survivors need roadmap

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 8th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Half of all men and a third of all women in this country will develop cancer in their lifetime. But more of them than ever before… to the tune of almost ten-million in the United States alone in the past thirty years… are surviving the disease.

But surviving cancer isn’t the only goal. With survival comes a new medical challenge… one that goes beyond early detection and active treatment. Cancer survivors need what researchers call a “survivorship plan.”

These plans are designed to enhance quality of life for survivors and give them the follow-up they need. Those who survive the disease need an individualized roadmap to guide their health care AFTER cancer just as much as they needed one during treatment. Researchers say too few cancer survivors receive this guidance. In fact, when active treatment ends, survivors’ special needs… physical, psychological and social… may be just beginning.

Survivors face many challenges… like being at risk for their cancer returning or for developing a new malignancy… or worrying about those possibilities. They also may have to deal with health problems caused by their cancer treatments… like nerve damage, sexual dysfunction and infertility. Cosmetic changes… not to mention the financial challenges of keeping health insurance and being able to work… are part of the picture, too.

A survivorship plan maps out expectations and options. As such, it offers both survivors and caregivers a way to celebrate beating the disease, while addressing the difficulties left in its wake.