Editor’s Note: The following is a recap of a recent article published in Cancer Therapy Advisor. All rights reserved. It reports on a session dedicated to survivorship care at the May 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
By Beth Sanders Moore
As of 2012 in the United States there were 14 million cancer survivors, a number that is expected to grow to 18 million by 2022. The understanding that survivorship is a necessary component of cancer care is not a new concept; yet, it is a phase of cancer care that is often neglected.
At last week’s 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, Ann H. Partridge MD, MPH, discussed the challenges that oncologists face in standardizing survivorship guidelines for their adult patients.
She summarized her adaptation of the Institute of Medicine’s definition of survivorship care as:
- surveillance, screening, and preventing cancer recurrence or development of new cancers (which includes fostering adherence to clinical guidelines and risk-reducing treatments);
- identifying and managing late and long-term medical, psychological, and social effects;
- encouraging patients to demonstrate healthy behaviors;
- coordinating care throughout the health care spectrum to ensure patients are sufficiently provided for.
Partridge noted that oncologists are aware that planning is essential to delivering sufficient survivorship care to their patients. Planning survivorship care requires a variety of efforts including an understanding of the issues, the creation of evidence and consensus within the community, the development of systems and tools that aid in the adherence to standards, resources, and, perhaps most difficult to establish, a willingness to change both at a personal and institutional level.
Oncologists face three primary challenges in creating standards of care for cancer survivors:
- oncology care providers still have substantial work to do in curing the diseases they treat and are often focused on that treatment;
- cancer is a complex disease that has a wide range of therapeutic interventions and associated risks;
- There is a significant void in research, particularly prospective studies and randomized controlled trials, on the topic of survivorship.
“Even when there are data, and even when evidence exists, many do not follow those data,” Dr. Partridge said.
The key factor in streamlining established guidelines into practice is to acknowledge the fact that not all patients need the same services. Data shows there is disparity among patients when it came to what they felt they needed and when within their treatment they wanted those services.
“We don’t want to be pushing services or squandering resources on patients where it’s not necessary.”
Survivorship care, in many ways, is an extension of quality care, Dr. Partridge explained. Quality care focuses on ensuring that patients are receiving the right amount a care. Survivorship care shares the same goal. It’s important to target survivorship care so that the appropriate level of support is given to each patient, ideally giving each patient a baseline level of service and offering a variety of options that go into higher levels of supportive care.