"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Survival clinics are an important a part of cancer treatment

September 27, 2023 – When Amanda Hanley was 21 years old and was being treated for Hodgkin lymphomashe has found a friend for all times.

“The word gets around in Rhode Island because Rhode Island is so small. A girl from town was also going through chemotherapy,” said Hanley, now 32. “She and I got matching tattoos last week.”

Their friendship has now lasted for over ten years. Hanley left energetic treatment and eventually pursued her dream of becoming a veterinarian. In the meantime, she found a therapist, traveled, battled alcohol, and endured every week of hysteria before each oncology appointment.

When she returned to Rhode Island in 2020 after veterinary school, her chemo friend told her concerning the cancer survivorship clinic on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where Hanley was first treated.

“I didn't even know the survival clinic existed until I moved back here,” Hanley said. “I really like the survival clinic because they know your story. It's a different atmosphere.”

Challenges facing oncology today include increasing awareness of resources for cancer survivors and developing innovations to satisfy the evolving needs of a more diverse population of cancer survivors.

Treatments for a lot of sorts of cancer have turn out to be so effective that the disease is now often seen as a chronic illness moderately than necessarily a death sentence. Some doctors say it’s realistic to assume that cancer will someday be on a par with diseases akin to hypertension or diabetes.

Life expectancy after a cancer diagnosis has increased a lot that this has a big impact on Life expectancy for the typical citizen within the USA More people at the moment are under 50 years receive more cancer diagnoses than ever before.

In total, greater than 18 million people within the United States have survived cancer.

Each person has a wide range of aspects that tell a private cancer story, including age and current living conditions, treatments, whether the disease continues to be detectable and, in fact, the sort and stage of the cancer. There are greater than 200 sorts of cancer.

“It’s a huge group of people,” said Alicia Morgans, MD, MPH, medical director of the Adult Survivorship Program at Dana-Farber.

Anyone diagnosed with cancer is taken into account a survivor from the day of diagnosis, which is a change from the way in which things were viewed within the Seventies and Eighties, she said. Decades ago, cancer survivors' biggest concerns were the increased risk of heart problems or secondary cancers resulting from radiation and a few chemotherapy treatments.

“Now we’re really thinking more broadly about what’s important to people, including things like sleep, sexual health, psychological support and nutrition,” Morgans said.

For cancer survivors, the disease and its treatment could cause lifelong impairments, including fatigue, relationship problems, financial impact, in addition to psychological problems, sleep disorders and fertility issues.

Recent innovations in Dana-Farber's survivorship program include targeted take care of young cancer survivors, akin to testicular cancer or colon cancer.

“Young patients may have greater needs and different priorities,” Morgans said.

But not every cancer survivor receives a private call to supply support long after treatment. In many cases, it's only a poster in a cancer center cafeteria or an automatic questionnaire sent through a patient portal. Responses are then forwarded for follow-up based on how the survivor answers a series of questions.

Cancer survivors must advocate for his or her ongoing needs, says Arif Kamal, MD, chief patient affairs officer for the American Cancer Society and an oncologist at Duke Cancer Center in Durham, North Carolina.

“Remember that follow-up care is a specialized treatment that requires special skills and eyes and ears. The experience does not end when chemotherapy is finished,” he said.

Patients should feel the identical level of support and a spotlight after treatment as they did in the course of the treatment itself, Kamal said.

For Hanley, meaning someone needs to examine her lymph nodes, since her cancer has spread to the lymphatic system. When she first visited her primary care doctor, suspecting a serious illness, her fears about dramatic weight reduction and a lump in her neck were dismissed and attributed to a recent study abroad trip to Costa Rica.

“If I had just listened to my first GP and done nothing, I would be dead,” said Hanley, whose cancer Stage III in diagnosis.

A visit from a health care provider, akin to a nurse at a survivorship clinic, provides some extent of contact for medical take care of cancer survivors.

“They may not be near your oncologist, but they are close to him. They are between your oncology world and your primary care world,” Morgans said. “They can do follow-up care for you. They can monitor your annual mammogram, for example.”

“There is no end date for survival,” she said. “You can stay there until you want to move on. You won't be kicked out.”

The amount and kind of ongoing support cancer survivors want varies widely, and it's OK to ask for kind of, Kamal said.

“Some patients say, 'I'm OK with an appointment once a year,' and other patients want to see me once a month to talk about what's bothering them, because some of them are worried,” he said. “The cancer may be gone, but the aftereffects may still be there, and those are issues worth addressing.”

Connecting survivors to helpful resources is an area that needs more attention in survivorship programming, said researcher Chloe Zimmerman, a medical and doctoral student at Brown University in Providence, RI. She was the lead writer of a study This summer, a recent study was published showing that a Chinese mind-body practice called Qi Gong was as successful as a conventional and more strenuous exercise program in treating cancer-related fatigue.

On average, the ladies within the study continued to suffer from significant fatigue greater than 4 years after completing energetic treatment.

“The bigger problem right now is that many oncologists don't think to recommend a post-treatment program,” Zimmerman said. “Most of our study participants had never heard that they might struggle with fatigue after treatment. So from an educational perspective, I think the more survivorship programs there are, the better.”