A place for survivors
May 22, 2018 | Tom Wilemon
The end of cancer treatment is reason to celebrate and a relief for patients and their families, but it can also be a time of new concerns.
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center offers the REACH for Survivorship Program, a comprehensive clinic for survivors of all ages who have faced any type of cancer and who have received cancer treatment from any healthcare provider.
It doesn’t matter if the treatment was recent or received long ago — the program can help those who have concerns about physical, emotional or practical issues related to their cancer and its treatment. The clinic is not restricted to those who have issues that need resolving. Even for those doing well who simply want to remain healthy, the clinic has services that can help achieve that goal.
Those seen in the clinic complete a comprehensive health history and receive a personalized Cancer Survivorship Care Plan that will serve as a roadmap for their future health and well-being. Patients are often referred by their oncologists, but may initiate the visit on your own.
“This clinic is not intended to take the place of oncology, but is really focused on the education of the patient, caregiver and primary care physician,” said Debra Friedman, MD, the E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Pediatric Oncology and director of the Cancer Center’s Cancer Survivorship programs. “Patients seen in our clinic will have a written document that summarizes all cancer therapy and offers recommendations for screening and a list of things to be concerned about if they should occur.”
The initial visit, which takes about an hour, includes a medical evaluation and list of educational and support services and health recommendations specific to each patient’s needs and goals. If any imaging or labs are needed, the clinic seeks to have those arranged on the same day as the visit.
A Survivorship Care Plan includes detailed information about:
- Cancer diagnosis and treatment
- The treatment facility and oncology health care providers
- Potential long-term physical and emotional problems
- Potential risks of treatment and screening guidelines
- Recommendations to prevent chronic illness, cancer recurrence or new cancers
Clinic staff will review the plan with the patient, and copies will be sent to the patient’s oncologist, primary care physician and other appropriate healthcare providers.
“Other cancer centers offer a survivorship clinic, usually for pediatric patients, but may or may not have a survivorship clinic for adult patients,” Friedman said. “We offer a survivorship clinic for all patients in one place. Pediatric patients are going to grow into adults and will still need follow-up for long-term effects. Why should they be transferred for care during their lifetime? Every time you have a transition of care, you risk losing part of your story and someone not knowing what’s needed.”
Friedman said the clinic is an opportunity to educate the cancer survivor as well as their primary care physician and other healthcare professionals who may not be aware of the details of all of their treatment.
“Our patients love the clinic. They feel like they can take charge of their life. It gives them a voice and the opportunity to advocate for their health.”