Life After Cancer: What Is a Cancer Survivorship Care Plan?
A survivorship care plan is a detailed record made just for you. It helps guide you as you move forward after cancer treatment. Many health groups agree that healthcare providers should make a survivorship care plan for each of their patients after cancer care.
The care plan is a record of your cancer history. It's also a plan of what you need to do moving forward to stay well and get the right medical care. You can share it with your current or future healthcare providers. And while you may want to share copies, always keep a copy of your survivorship care plan for your own records.
What are the goals of a survivorship care plan?
A survivorship care plan can be used to help you:
Move your routine healthcare back to your main healthcare providers (like your primary care provider, dentist, gynecologist, or nurse practitioner) so you can get physicals, screenings, vaccines, and other preventive care
Make sure that you follow-up with your healthcare providers as needed
Make sure you are treated for physical and emotional side effects that are common after cancer care
Know what to do to watch for a second cancer (a second new cancer) or recurring cancer (cancer that comes back after treatment)
Make healthy life choices so you can handle or even prevent future health problems
Reduce your risk of needing emergency care or a hospital stay
Find support after cancer care
Do I need a survivorship care plan?
Survivorship care plans are not required. But they can be very helpful as people adjust to life after cancer treatment. The plan can help you collect all the details about your cancer and the treatments you had. You can then refer to it, when needed. It's helpful for your loved ones, too.
It’s a record you can share with other healthcare providers who take care of you. It can help you know what to do to stay healthy after treatment. And it can tell you how to watch for future problems. It can also give you information to help handle things like emotional, legal, and financial issues.
What’s in a survivorship care plan?
A survivorship care plan has a lot of details in it. It’s a record of your cancer care. It's also a map to help you in the weeks, months, and years ahead. The plan should list the kinds of care you need after treatment. It should also include who will be giving that care and how these providers can work together to help you. Here are some of the things the plan covers:
Facts about your cancer, such as the type, the date it was found, and its stage, grade, and tumor markers
Key diagnostic tests that were done and their results
All types of treatment you had with the dates and places of treatment
Types of medicine used and the doses
Side effects, reactions, or complications you had with each treatment
Details about any clinical trials you were part of
Other care you had, such as seeing a nutritionist, physical therapist, or counselor
Genetic testing done and the results, as well as whether you or family members may have genetic risk factors for cancer
Information on your family's medical history
Contact information for all your cancer care providers and their specialties
A list of the medicines you're taking, including vitamins, herbs, and supplements, along with the doses, frequency, and purpose for taking each one
Your allergies and sensitivities
It will also outline the things you need to know moving forward, such as:
Long-term and late treatment effects you have or may have later, such as heart or lung problems or fertility issues
Tips on dealing with any lasting side effects, like fatigue, chemo brain, or problems during sex
Any ongoing treatment you need, such as long-term medicines (their names, doses, and purpose)
Referrals to and coordination with any specialists you'll need to see, such as cardiologists (for heart-related problems) or endocrinologists (for hormone-related problems like diabetes, thyroid disorders, or infertility), and how often you should see them
Your risk for recurring cancer or a second cancer, the symptoms you should watch for, and a schedule for screening tests
Any follow-up visits and tests you need and when to have them
List of symptoms or problems you need to report to your healthcare providers and how to reach them
Referral for counseling, support groups, and other types of emotional help
Contact details for all your follow-up healthcare providers
It may give tips to help you be healthy, such as:
Eating a healthy diet
Getting to or staying at a healthy weight
Not using any form of tobacco or making a plan to quit
Not drinking alcohol, or limiting use
It may also help you with:
Talking with your healthcare team
Ask your healthcare providers if they can put together a survivorship care plan for you. Not all cancer care teams do this. But you can also make your own. Some good resources are:
Talk with your healthcare team and ask for help with the details.