The Survivorship Program: Transitions for Cancer Survivors
About the Survivorship Program
The Survivorship Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey provides long-term wellness care, evaluation, support and health education for adult cancer survivors.
Advances in cancer screening, detection, treatment, and supportive care have increased survival rates for people with cancer. Improved survival rates have created new challenges for providing health care to people living with and beyond cancer. Survivors have unique health care needs because of their illness experience. New research shows that there are many physical and emotional consequences of cancer. Some of these can occur long after treatment has been completed and are called “late effects.” These issues require survivors to have continual monitoring and follow-up care.
The purpose of the Survivorship Program is to provide this type of specialized after cancer care. Our team of doctors and nurses know the up-to-date medical recommendations and monitor (through use of medical tests and screenings) patients for the late effects of treatment. Additionally, other members of our team are available to provide supportive care to patients to promote adjustment to life after cancer and to provide assistance in adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors.
Each patient’s unique medical history, cancer treatment and lifestyle choices are carefully reviewed upon entrance into the Survivorship Program. We will review other medical conditions, family history, and health behaviors before their first clinic visit. At the first visit to the Survivorship Program, each patient will be asked about any lingering or new symptoms or side effects that impact their lives. Our healthcare teamwill review the information provided by patients, conduct a clinical examination and make recommendations for future care.
After the visit, each patient will be provided with a Survivorship Care Plan. The Survivorship Care Plan includes important health information about your cancer including: your diagnosis and stage of cancer, surgical procedures, past cancer medications, radition treatments, possible long-term problems that may arise and recommendations for future care. This care plan serves several purposes. First, the care plan provides recommended preventative screenings that are based on the anticipated side effects of the specific medications and therapies received by the patient.
Additionally, the care plan can be used as a communication tool between medical professionals about the cancer care the patient received. Patients are encouraged to share this Survivorship Care Plan with non-cancer health providers who also care for them.
The Survivorship Care Plan can be shared with other health providers to improve the coordination of your ongoing medical care. It is recommended that the Survivorship Care Plan be shared with your Primary Care Physician. We will request your permission to forward a copy of the Survivorship Care Plan directly to your physician’s office .
Patients will return to the office according to the schedule for your particular follow-up plan. At these visits, the healthcare team will review the patient’s progress and update the Survivorship Care Plan accordingly. You will meet with your medical oncologist at some of your visits. Other physicians (surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists) who have cared for you will always be available if needed.
“I don’t think you ever forget the fact that it could come back”—Emily
Just as cancer treatment affects your physical health, it can also affect the way you feel, think, and do the things you like to do. It’s normal to have many different feelings after treatment ends. Just as you need to take care of your body after treatment, you need to take care of your emotions.
Each person’s experience with cancer is different, and the feelings, emotions and fears that you have are unique. The values you grew up with may affect how you think about and deal with cancer. Some people may feel that they have to be strong and protect their friends and families. Others seek support from loved ones or other cancer survivors or turn to their faith to help them cope. Some seek help from counselors and others outside the family, while others don’t feel comfortable with this approach.
Whatever you decide, it is important to do what is right for you and try not to compare yourself with others.