Cancer Treatment Summary and Survivorship Cancer Plan
Survivorship Care Plans (SCPs) are emerging as one element of an improved and more coordinated approach to survivor care.
Survivorship Care Plans are formal, written documents that provide details of a person's cancer diagnosis and treatment, potential late and long-term effects arising from the cancer and its treatment, recommended follow-up, and strategies to remain well.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that each person who completes primary treatment for cancer receive a comprehensive care summary and follow-up plan. This needs to be clearly and effectively explained to the survivor.
A Survivorship Care Plan is one way to try to ensure a consistent, coordinated management plan and flow of information, to help ensure good survivorship outcomes.
The plan should include information about:
- the cancer for which the survivor received treatment, and the type of treatments they received
- short-term and long-term effects of treatment: what to be alert for and how frequently to visit the doctor for checkups and screening (incl. information about psychosocial effects)
- how the survivor's follow-up care will be coordinated between the oncology specialist, GP, nurse specialists, etc., and who to contact in between follow-up appointments and when you should have them
- lifestyle changes needed to reduce the risk and severity of treatment side effects, prevent comorbid conditions and promote better health (incl. information about diet, smoking, alcohol, obesity and overweight, exercise and sun protection)
- describe ways to manage physical and mental health
- useful community resources should the survivor encounter employment and insurance issues
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have developed a Survivorship Care Plan template which has been updated by Bowel Cancer Australia for patients within Australia. It contains important information about the given treatment, the need for future check-ups and cancer tests, the potential long-term late effects of the treatment you received, and ideas for improving your health.
Please note it is not intended to provide a complete medical record as no single survivorship care plan is appropriate for all patients due to the complexity of cancer care. Talk with your doctor for more information about your individual treatment and follow-up care.
Cancer Treatment Summary
A Cancer Treatment Summary is a form that provides a convenient way to store information about your cancer, cancer treatment, and follow-up care. It is meant to give basic information about your medical history to any doctors who will care for you during your lifetime.
Using the treatment summary, your current oncologist can enter the chemotherapy dose you received, the specific drugs that were used, the number of treatment cycles that were completed, surgeries done, and any additional treatment that was given, such as radiation therapy or hormonal therapy.
The Cancer Treatment Summary should include information that:
- Describes your cancer diagnosis
- Describes medical treatments you received or are receiving
- Helps you talk with health care professionals who were not part of your cancer care team
- Gives you a record of your cancer treatments
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have developed a Cancer Treatment Summary template which has been updated by Bowel Cancer Australia for patients within Australia.
Please note it is not intended to provide a complete medical record as no single cancer treatment summary is appropriate for all patients due to the complexity of cancer care. Talk with your doctor for more information about your individual treatment and follow-up care.
Side Effects of Cancer Treatment
Even after cancer treatment ends, you may have some physical side effects. The kind of side effects you have and how long they last will depend on the treatment you received. By being aware of the common side effects of cancer treatment, you can work with your doctor to help them. They might include:
- Problems fighting infection
- Lymohoedema (swelling of arms or legs)
- Memory loss or trouble concentrating
- Changes in sexual function or fertility
- Nerve problems such as numbness and tingling
- Bone and joint problems or muscle weakness
- Skin changes
- Secondary cancers
Emotional and Social Issues
Cancer affects much more than just your physical health. There is often stress along with a cancer experience, and it does not always end when treatment ends. In fact, those feelings may increase for some people after treatment. Areas of concern may include:
- Going back to work after a long time away
- Dealing with financial concerns
- Rebuilding relationships with friends and family
- Establishing a new 'normal' and returning to day-to-day life
- Feeling uncertain about the future
- Coping with fears of cancer returning
Managing Your Health and Wellness after Treatment
After treatment is over, there are a number of things you can do to stay healthy and reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, and even other cancers.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco or cigars
- Limit the number of alcoholic beverages to no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks per day for men, if you drink at all
- Be physically active to help stay healthy and reduce stress
- Eat a healthy diet with more fruits and vegetables and less red and processed meats
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Protect your skin from exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, sunlamps, and tanning beds
- See your doctor and dentist for regular checkups
You can find more information on Bowel Cancer Austraila's personal, financial and emotional support webpage.
Returning to Work: What You Need to Know
Many cancer survivors are able to continue working through and beyond their treatment. They may miss only a few days of work or require just a temporary adjustment in their work schedules. Others may have to stop working during treatment and return later. Whether you continue to work may depend on your workplace.
Many organisations are supportive of employees during and after treatment. For example, some employers proactively let their employees know what options are available if they want to continue working. However, sometimes employers and co-workers may assume that a cancer survivor is unable to perform job responsibilities as well as they did before the cancer diagnosis.
It is important to know the laws that protect you in the workplace including the Australian Disability Discrimination Act which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities (cancer is included in the definition of disability as a malfunction in part of a person's body).
A cancer survivor who is discriminated against because they previously had cancer, or because they are wrongly thought to still have cancer, or because they may develop cancer symptoms again in the future, is also covered since the Disability Discrimination Act includes discrimination based on past, imputed or future disabilities.
People living with and beyond cancer often need flexible work hours in order to go to medical appointments. Sometimes, restructuring a job or reducing the number of hours you work may be considered reasonable, especially if you work through treatment or plan to return to the workplace after treatment ends.
If you require flexi-time, it is important to tell your supervisor or your human resources department about your cancer history. For more information visit Fair Work Australia.