Published December 17, 2018 Author: ALTCARE STAFF
Aftercare – it is an oft-overlook aspect of health care, including cancer patients. When someone is diagnosed with a disease, the immediate reaction is, “How do we cure this?” Some modalities address the patient. There are cancer treatments for the patient. … But once the disease is treated, there is still the matter of aftercare.
What do you do … now?
Assuredly, you will continue to have visits with your healthcare team. Your doctors will have a personal course of action. You most likely will continue having tests and physical examinations.
There may be an urge to dial back your tests and exams. After all, you’re feeling great! But resist that thought. Continue talking with your doctors and follow their advice. Bottom line: The follow-up visits are to check for recurrences of the disease.
The results of a 2006 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology determined that “improving the quality of care for cancer survivors is contingent on having physicians, nurses, and other professionals with adequate training in survivorship care.” (1)
The paper’s author, Betty R. Ferrell, has been in nursing for 40 years. She focuses on pain management, quality of life, and palliative care.
“Previous literature has documented the deficiencies in existing formal education programs regarding the complex needs of this growing population,” Ferrell noted. “Continuing education programs and basic curricula need to incorporate the expanding body of knowledge regarding the physiologic and psychosocial sequelae of survivorship.”
Ferrell’s article reviewed the status of survivorship education and provided direction for essential content in future training. “Topics such as prevention of secondary cancers, long-term complications, rehabilitation services, quality-of-life issues, pain, and symptom management, and treatment of recurrent disease are critical competencies of education,” she said.
Ferrell, who was named in 2013 by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine as one of “30 Visionaries” in the palliative field, argued that learnings from these topics should become routine care for cancer survivors.
Here are some tips from Macmillan Cancer Support for determining an aftercare plan with your healthcare professional. (2)
- Discuss your needs and agree on care plan
Before the discussion, make a list of things you’d like to talk about with your doctor. Also, take someone — a relative or friend — with you to the meeting.
- Ask about a Treatment Summary
This document can be provided by your hospital team at the end of your treatment. A Treatment Summary describe the procedure you had and gives you a sense of what to expect after the treatment has finished.
- Find your main contact
Your hospital team will give you details of who to contact if you have any worries, concerns, or side effects after treatment. (They may call this person your “key worker,” and may be a specialist nurse, doctor, therapist, or dietitian.
- Be aware of any symptoms you may experience after treatment
If you have side effects after treatment – eating difficulties, bowel problems, pain or tiredness – speak to your specialist or main contact.
- Get support with day-to-day concerns
Health and Wellbeing events provide information and support. This is a chance to meet with others who have gone through what you’re experiencing. Ask your main contact and check online for events in your area. Also, family and friends may be able to provide support.
- Talk about how you feel
Having mixed feelings at the end of treatment is normal. You may feel anxious about what happens next. Talk to family and friends about your worries and emotions. Many people also find social networking a useful way of getting support.
- Try to lead a healthy lifestyle
After having cancer treatment, a healthy lifestyle will speed up recovery and improve your well-being. This includes:
- regular exercise;
- a balanced diet;
- reduce the amount of alcohol, if you drink;
- give up smoking, if you smoke;
- being safe in the sun.
Also, try to reduce stress in your life. Relax more and have some fun!
- Know what to look out for
It is common to worry about your cancer coming back – even months or years later. Understanding what can happen after treatment ends will help you recognize any symptoms. In turn, if these symptoms develop, you are prepared to seek advice.
- Be aware of your own health
Most side effects of cancer treatment are temporary. Once the treatment is finished, these will diminish. However, some effects may be permanent. Others can develop months, and sometimes years, after treatment.
- Share your experiences
There are opportunities to influence healthcare by sharing your experiences. Ways you can do this include:
- join a patient group or forum;
- volunteer with a cancer charity;
- take part in research and/or filling in a satisfaction questionnaire;
- let staff know your opinions regarding the care you received or the care you would like to have received.
(1) Betty R. Ferrell and Rodger Winn. Medical and Nursing Education and Training Opportunities to Improve Survivorship Care. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2006 24:32, 5142-5148 http://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/JCO.2006.06.0970
(2) Macmillan Cancer Support. What to do after treatment .pdf https://www.macmillan.org.uk/_images/what-to-do-after-treatment-10-top-tips_tcm9-297874.pdf