The end of cancer treatment can leave patients with questions, like what follow-up care is needed and what to do about lingering side effects.
A survivorship care plan is a document meant to ease transition from active treatment to life after cancer. Patients who undergo cancer treatment at Marshfield Clinic Health System can receive a care plan 3-6 months after treatment is complete. The plan includes a summary of cancer care, recommendations for follow-up visits and wellness resources.
“The care plan is personalized to the patient’s goals,” said Mindy Gribble, a registered nurse and coordinator of the cancer survivorship program for cancer survivors at the Health System. “It reduces barriers to accessing support so patients have recovery and wellness resources at their fingertips.”
A cancer treatment summary
Part of the survivorship care plan is a summary of your cancer care, including information about treatment type and schedule, response to treatment and cancer progression.
For patients, the plan is stored in their electronic medical record. Patients get a copy to reference at home, provide to other places they receive health care or take with them when they travel.
A list of names and contact information of health care providers seen during treatment is included so patients and current providers can reach them with follow-up questions.
Recommendations for follow-up
The care plan also provides a recommended schedule of follow-up visits and tests.
The plan guides the conversation between patients and providers as their medical care transitions from oncology to primary care in the years following cancer treatment,” Gribble said.
The recommendations may refer to health care patients will receive years after treatment ends. For example, the plan might recommend starting mammograms earlier for women exposed to radiation in their chest area during lymphoma treatment.
“Care plans aren’t set in stone,” Gribble said. “They can be adjusted based on new guidelines and what research says is better for the patient.”
Resources for survivors
Most cancer survivors have questions and concerns beyond what follow-up care they will receive after treatment.
The care plan addresses concerns patients may have about emotional healing, staying healthy, nutrition, exercise, movement, finances and health insurance. It includes educational materials, information about local resources and contact information for people who can answer questions.
The entire care plan is reviewed with the patient before it’s finalized to make sure the patient understands it and it addresses his or her concerns.
“A lot goes into recovery from cancer treatment, so it’s important we work as a team and make sure the patient’s input is included,” Gribble said.