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What is a cancer survivor?
The American Cancer Society estimates that today there are nearly 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. Further, roughly 410,700 cancer survivors live in Georgia. Increasingly effective screening techniques and innovative therapies will continue to contribute to the growing population of cancer survivors in the United States.
The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Office of Cancer Survivorship says “an individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition.”
Similarly, the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) defines cancer survivorship as “the experience of living with, through and beyond a diagnosis of cancer”. According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), survivorship encompasses the physical, psychosocial and economic issues related to cancer from diagnosis until the end of life. Survivorship includes issues related to health care access, follow-up treatment, late- and long-term effects of treatment, recurrence, and quality of life.
As the population of cancer survivors in the United States continues to grow, the need for survivorship care is abundant. Unfortunately, many cancer centers do not offer survivorship care services. In 2005, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report entitled “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition”. This report defines Survivorship Care as a distinct phase of care for cancer survivors that includes four central components:
Prevention and detection of new cancers and recurrent cancer.
Surveillance for cancer spread, recurrence, or second cancers.
Intervention for consequences of cancer and its treatment.
Coordination between specialists and primary care providers to ensure that all of the survivor’s health needs are met.
Inspired by this 2005 IOM Report, The LIVESTRONG Foundation established their Survivorship Centers of Excellence in order to begin building an evidence-base for the best practices in survivorship care delivery. Ultimately in 2011, LIVESTRONG’s Survivorship Center of Excellence developed the essential elements for survivorship care.
In addition to the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s essential elements of survivorship care, the American College of Surgeon’s (ACOS) Commission on Cancer (CoC) produces standards for quality cancer care. CoC-accredited hospitals provide roughly 75% of cancer care, which emphasizes the significance of providing standards that encompass survivorship care. In 2012, the ACOS updated several CoC standards, including one related to survivorship care. CoC Standard 3.3 requires CoC-accredited institutions to provide cancer patients completing treatment with a comprehensive care summary and follow-up plan. Read more about this CoC standard on survivorship.
In 2013, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) also released their first ever NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for Survivorship. Recognizing the responsibility of oncology professionals in managing the ongoing health care needs of cancer survivors, the NCCN developed these guidelines to enhance the medical care cancer survivors receive. The NCCN survivorship guidelines can be found here.
In addition, in 2014, a convenience sample of Georgia cancer survivors completed a paper or online survey about the presence of and distress associated with unmet physical, emotional, spiritual, and practical needs, and receipt of assistance in those areas. They were also asked about receipt of cancer treatment and survivorship care plans. You can read the needs assessment here.
As a statewide nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the quality of treatment for cancer patients and survivors, Georgia CORE continues to lead statewide efforts to offer survivorship care to cancer survivors in Georgia. Informed by these national standards, Georgia CORE strives to educate oncology professionals on the best practices in survivorship care, as well as increase awareness among cancer survivors and caregivers. Visit GeorgiaCancerInfo.org to read more about survivors’ unique cancer journeys in Georgia.
Other Useful Resources
Assessment of Distress, Unmet Needs, and Receipt of Care Plans Among Cancer Survivors in Georgia: A Needs Assessment
Cancer Survivorship in Georgia
Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Use of Integrative Therapies as Supportive Care in Patients Treated for Breast Cancer
Georgia's Cancer Survivorship Needs Survey
Life After Cancer: Survivorship by the Numbers
Resources for Health Care Professionals
Survivorship Resources and Services