June is National Cancer Survivors Month.
A cancer "survivor" is anyone living with a history of cancer - from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life, according to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation. Major advances in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment have resulted in longer survival. In the United States, there are nearly 12 million people living with a history of cancer.
A cancer diagnosis can leave a host of problems in its wake as physical, financial and emotional hardships often persist after diagnosis and treatment. Survivors may continue to face challenges such as inadequate insurance and employment issues. Resources are available to help cancer survivors with all of these issues; patient navigators and other healthcare providers can help connect survivors to the appropriate care and resources.
Starting in 2015, organizations accredited by the Commission on Cancer will be required to provide cancer survivors with a "survivorship care plan" at the end of treatment. This survivorship care plan will incorporate a comprehensive treatment summary, including a description of common long-term and late effects of treatment. In addition, a follow-up plan of care, which will feature a time frame of recommended follow-up tests and appointments and a list of specific lifestyle recommendations, will be provided. A survivorship care plan will facilitate the continuity of care for cancer survivors and will help them take an active part in their health with the goal of living active, productive lives. Sample survivorship care plans are available online through such agencies as Journey Forward and Livestrong.
Staying connected is an important aspect of coping for cancer survivors. Support groups offer a great way for cancer survivors to share with others and to "give back" by supporting those who are newly diagnosed. Several disease-specific support groups are available locally (breast, lymphedema, ovarian, prostate, and ostomy). The Cancer Survivors' Association (CSA) offers a general support group for all cancer survivors and their family members and friends. CSA is also sponsoring a new organization, Connecting Cancer Caregivers, a support group for the caregivers of cancer patients. For cancer-related support groups held by Mount Nittany Health, visit mountnittany.org or call the Cancer Support Line at 814.231.7111 for more information.
In honor of National Cancer Survivors Day on June 3, all cancer survivors and their families were invited to join the CSA and Mount Nittany Medical Center at Meyer Dairy in State College. Attendees talked with other cancer survivors, as well as received information on cancer survivorship and free giveaways.
For more information and tools for cancer survivors, please visit mountnittany.org.