How can care providers ensure cancer survivors continue to receive adequate follow-up care post treatment?
Joseph Alvarnas, MD, asked the panels opinion on what they perceive as opportunities for improving survivorship care. "What do you see as the gaps in survivorship care? You mentioned some of them earlier. What are they and how do we get towards this idea of really preparing patients for their life after cancer?" he asked.
In response, Rebekkah Schear, MIA, shared results of a LIVESTRONG survey from several years ago that found that a majority of patients had at least 1 posttreatment physical, emotional, or practical concern. However, 29% said they did not receive care for their physical concerns, nearly 50% voiced lack of follow-up care for their emotional concerns, and one-third did not get follow-up care for practical concerns. Less than half of the patients reported having conversations on fertility preservation and fertility risk with their provider. "I think that across the board we're seeing the needle begin to move a little bit in terms of survivorship evolving as a movement," Schear said.
Lending his experience as an oncologist to the discussion, Michael Kolodziej, MD, said that a lot remains unknown with chemotherapy agents. He cited examples of patients with breast cancer whom he had treated about 2 decades ago and who were concerned about cardiac effects post treatment with Adriamycin or Herceptin—drugs known to be cardiotoxic. He said he was at a loss for information because not much was known back then about survivorship care. In his opinion, primary care providers need to play a much bigger role in caring for patients who have survived a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
"If we can start to develop the evidence base that will allow us to give good recommendations to our patients and to our primary care physician colleagues, we'll actually improve the life and promote the wellness of our patients for a long, long time," Kolodziej said.