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Life After Cancer A Roadmap for Cancer Survivors

The Cancer Survivorship Care Plan Summary
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

The possibility of late side effects from therapy or recurrent cancer, or a new cancer makes medical surveillance necessary for ten to twenty-plus years. An organized preventive medicine program is needed with screening and advice on ways to adopt healthier lifestyles for diet, exercise, emotional support, and treatment of comorbidities.

The oncologist and the medical team are the crucial elements in the shared care approach of the Survivorship Care Plan: they will inform your primary care provider and other specialists involved about your diagnosis, treatment, and recommended follow-up care. It is possible for you, the survivor, to better understand the lifelong scope of your condition and become a partner in your medical care.

Some of the essential elements of a post-therapy survivorship plan include:
- List of treating physicians and contact data
- A schedule for periodic doctor visits for frequent or routine check-ups
- Specific blood tests and diagnostic scans as needed
- Disease-specific follow-up screening guidelines
- Preventive medical programs
- Review of short- and long-term potential side effects and discussion of signs and symptoms of a possible cancer recurrence or a new cancer
- Recommendations for lifestyle changes that can be implemented to reduce the risk and severity of treatment side effects and comorbidities
- Assessment of the need for emotional or group therapy support for possible anxiety, fear, isolation and depression problems
- A list of community resources to aid in obtaining benefits, insurance, employment protection, and life support as needed
- Ongoing communications of new advances in medicine and current research which could be of aid in reducing the toxic side effects of both cancer and cancer therapy as needed

There is no one specific follow-up guideline schedule, as each cancer and patient are different and will require an individualized follow-up program depending on the type of cancer and stage, its risks, and its aggressiveness.

An Example of a Survivor's Follow-up Plan (Text version)
An Example of a Survivor's Follow-up Plan (PDF version)

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First appeared November 20, 2007; updated August 2, 2008