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Cancer Survivorship Care Plans Chart a Path Forward

Last updated: June 12, 2024

Absorbing and then enduring a cancer diagnosis is just the beginning for people. The time following treatment brings its own set of new circumstances and challenges.

Surviving cancer comes with a range of emotions. People may experience relief, joy, anxiety, guilt, and stress — to name just a few.

The survivorship journey isn’t linear, and no two people’s experiences are exactly the same. A survivor may feel positive or challenging emotions simultaneously or in quick succession.

June marks National Cancer Survivors Month. In the first of a two-part series looking at resources for survivors, we’re discussing cancer survivorship care plans.

To help people navigate the path forward after treatment, ThedaCare Cancer Care offers survivorship care plans and a survivorship clinic program. The services allow individuals to discuss their physical, mental, and emotional well-being with providers who are familiar with the challenges that come with cancer and treatment, says Crystal Guttman, a Nurse Practitioner with ThedaCare Cancer Care.   

“It allows the care team to provide resources, reassure people about what they’re experiencing, and discuss what they can expect in the future,” she says.

Understanding Survivorship

Survivorship starts at cancer diagnosis and lasts for a lifetime, Guttman says. People receive a survivorship care plan at the end of treatment to summarize their cancer journey.

“A survivorship care plan ties everything together,” Guttman says. “It helps chart a journey past the treatment end date.”

Care teams communicate the plan to the survivor and their family members. It provides a detailed record of cancer treatment history to help the individual coordinate future care.

Teams revisit the plan regularly and adjust it as necessary to address changing needs of the survivor. It also includes guidelines for monitoring for recurrence and outlines steps for helping people move forward.

A plan typically details:

  • Type, location, stage, and treatments for the person’s cancer
  • Side effects or symptoms to watch for
  • Contact information for the care team
  • Resources for making healthy lifestyle changes
  • Sources of support

“People may experience long-lasting side effects related to treatment or the cancer itself,” Guttman says. “We walk people through surveillance, imaging, health maintenance, and more. The goal is to help survivors find their ‘new normal.’”

Common Concerns

“Depending on the type of cancer or the treatment received, people may experience long-lasting side effects that take a toll mentally or physically,” says Emily Pohl, a Nurse Practitioner with ThedaCare Cancer Care. “It is not uncommon to have anxiety and/or depression surrounding the cancer diagnosis or quality of life after treatment.”

Other common concerns include:

  • Physical side effects
  • Fatigue
  • “Chemo brain” — changes in memory, thinking, and focus
  • Stress
  • Loneliness
  • Sexual side effects
  • Financial concerns

“Depending on the treatment a person received, they may also experience effects on different organ systems,” Pohl says. “This can lead to side effects that become lifelong concerns. We can help people manage and navigate these issues.”

In addition, the ThedaCare Cancer Care team helps survivors adopt healthy eating, exercise, and coping habits.

Continuing Care

ThedaCare Cancer Care is dedicated to caring for the whole person throughout their entire cancer journey.

“Cancer care does not end with treatment,” Guttman says. “We’re here to provide support and ongoing resources. We can help people continue to live their unique, best life — or redefine what that means to them.”

Learn more about ThedaCare Cancer Care services and support.

Tags: cancer side effects cancer survivorship post-cancer concerns

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