National Cancer Survivors Day® is Cause For Celebration

By Beth Sanders Moore

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day 2013, and the day is cause for celebration!

Here’s why:

The number of cancer survivors is growing. There are an estimated 13.7 million survivors living today. By the year 2020, that number is expected to increase by 30% to 18 million.

Cancer survivorship care is now an established medical practice area in the cancer care continuum that includes prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Post-treatment resources such as survivorship care plans and rehabilitation support are available to more and more survivors. Cancer care centers and oncologists are developing guidelines and service requirements so that all survivors have access to appropriate individualized survivorship care.

Beginning in 2015, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer will require that all ACS-accredited facilities provide survivorship care plans to all cancer patients. That mandate is a huge step in the right direction, considering that ACS facilities treat approximately 70% of newly-diagnosed cancer patients in the US. I am one of many who believe formal care plans are vital to a survivor’s successful transition from active treatment to a healthy life after treatment.

To facilitate that transition and help both oncologists and primary care providers routinely manage survivors’ needs, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network this year released a set of practice-oriented guidelines. The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for Survivorship is the organization’s first-ever publication of comprehensive instruction to healthcare providers. Compiled by an alliance of 23 leading global cancer centers, the NCCN Guidelines include sample assessment questions to accurately address survivor care in eight distinct areas: (1) anxiety and depression; (2) cognitive function; (3) exercise; (4) fatigue; (5) immunizations and infections; (6) pain; (7) sexual function; and, (8) sleep disorders.

Perhaps the boldest and broadest call to action is that of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) — the largest professional organization of cancer physicians — who in January of this year issued its own comprehensive recommendations to improve cancer survivor care. These recommendations address the need for:

  • additional education of healthcare providers about survivorship care;
  • expanded research on long-term and late side effects of treatment;
  • further coordination of after-treatment care among oncologists and primary care providers;
  • a continued voice for survivors in healthcare politics; and,
  • empowerment of cancer survivors and their families to advocate for their own needs.

All of this is welcomed news to cancer survivors, their families and caregivers. These guidelines, recommendations, collaborations and research projects are essential to increased availability of individual survivorship care and better long-term quality of life.

Yes, today is the day to celebrate successes: to benchmark new advances in cancer research, prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment…and now survivorship. And, when the swell of festivity on National Cancer Survivors Day 2013 has calmed, let’s each start building on the foundations recently-poured. Wouldn’t you agree that we as cancer survivors are the best advocates for our own survivorship care and rehabilitation?

Category: Cancer

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