For many cancer survivors, completing treatment can mean relief: It’s the closing of one chapter and turning a page to the next. However, ending treatment can also come with lots of questions and uncertainty. It may be difficult to resume your normal routines of work and family; you may be dealing with anxiety over the possibility of recurrence or wondering how to handle the financial impacts of treatment. The National Academy of Sciences’ Report, From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition captures some of the questions you may be asking about your care: “Who should I see? What tests should I have? How can I manage my cancer- and treatment-related symptoms? What services are available to help me and my family cope?” (National Academy of Sciences, 2006, p. 18)
A survivorship care plan can provide information, direction and long-term follow-up guidance for both you and your provider. Survivorship care plans can also promote shared decision-making and help you take charge of your health.
Here are some resources that can help inform your survivorship care planning and guide conversations with your doctor:
National Cancer Survivorship Resource Center Toolkit: Patient Tools – The National Cancer Survivorship Resource Center, a collaboration between the George Washington University (GW) Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society, provides this toolkit of checklists and resources to help guide your conversation with your doctor. Specific checklists for breast, colorectal, head and neck and prostate cancer are provided so you know what potential side effects to ask about.
LIVESTRONG Care Plan – LIVESTRONG offers customized, individual care plans based on answers to a questionnaire. Moving through the questionnaire, you’ll complete questions ranging from age of diagnosis to any previous treatment summaries and care plans you’ve received. Bear in mind that conferring with your oncology team is also key as you build your care plan. Once complete, the care plan summary provides risk factors and side effects specific to your type of cancer and treatment with resource links to navigation services and more.
NCCS Elements of a Survivorship Care Plan – The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship offers survivorship care plan resources to help aid you in planning your own comprehensive care summary. This resource features a list of questions that should be asked once cancer treatment ends. While not exhaustive, this list can certainly spark ideas for questions and/or conversations with your provider to get the most out of your care.
ASCO Cancer Treatment Summaries – ASCO offers downloadable survivorship care plan templates in addition to disease-specific templates for breast, colorectal, non-small cell lung, small cell lung, lymphoma and prostate cancer. The benefit of this care plan is the ability to have it in hand at the time of diagnosis. This allows for the course of action to be communicated to your health care team from the very beginning.
Cancer Survivor Care Plan– The Minnesota Cancer Alliance offers a downloadable survivorship care plan template that can be brought to medical appointments to complete with your medical. This plan also features an ‘After Treatment Care’ page that lists additional topics that may be of concern. This can be a great tool for inspiring questions for providers that you may not have considered.
Journey Forward Cancer Care Plan Builder – This tool from Journey Forward is geared towards oncology professionals and pairs Care Plan Builder software with an outlet for importing electronic health record (EHR) data. This secure and user-friendly outlet is customizable to meet each patient’s needs and includes free technical support.
National Academy of Sciences (2006). From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.