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So patients often ask those about survivorship programmes, and what does a survivorship programme mean. Can you tell us from a cancer society’s perspective, what is a survivorship programme? Well I think that starts with, first of all, when you are transitioning from active treatment for cancer. In your cancer centre, you have a team of doctors, of nurses, of specialists, around you to support you. Really, what you should be looking for from that team is a treatment summary and care plan. So look at, well, what treatment did I have?
And that might sound simple, but it’s something that can be difficult to gather together, and it’s important, if you’re living for many years after your treatment, to be able to provide that information to other doctors later down the line. And then a care plan of, what are the things that I need to be looking out for? In the first six months after my treatment, what can I expect?
Are there consequences of that treatment that I need to get medical support for, whether that be a dietitian for advice in relation to loss of appetite, whether that be managing the issues of fatigue and the timing between rest and moving back to exercise, which can be very, very important for radiation oncology patients. And these are all the things that improve a patient’s quality of life, because I think we’re moving beyond the point where curing cancer is enough.
We have to ensure that when we’re putting so much time and effort, and indeed money, to our health care systems into helping people survive cancer, that they have a significant quality of life or as good a quality of life as they possibly can, and that’s what survivorship is about. That’s what survivorship care planning is about. It’s about letting people know what the consequences of the treatment are, what they should look out for, and indeed, where they should look out and reach to for support services over a period of time. Because in lots of cases, support services are available. Patients just don’t know about them, and they don’t know that they can and should look for support.

Survivorship is a term that is often used when patients have completed their cancer treatment, but this does not mean that cancer patients consider themselves ‘survivors’.

When patients are transitioning from active treatment, they should ask for a summary of the treatment that they actually received from their radiation oncology team so that they have it for future reference.

The aim of after treatment care planning is to ensure that the patient has as good a quality of life as possible, and cancer societies can advise patients on the support services that they will need in their future.

Thinking about this video:

  • The term ‘surviving cancer’ can be viewed in many different ways by patients and healthcare professionals.
  • What is your opinion on the term ‘surviving cancer’?
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An Introduction to Radiation Oncology: From Diagnosis to Survivorship

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