In the United States, half of all men and one-third of all women will develop cancer in their lifetimes. Advances in the detection and treatment of cancer, combined with an aging population, mean greater numbers of cancer survivors in the near future.
Despite the increase in survivors, however, primary care physicians and other health care providers often are not extremely familiar with the consequences of cancer, and seldom receive explicit guidance from oncologists. Furthermore, the lack of clear evidence for what constitutes best practices in caring for patients with a history of cancer contributes to wide variation in care.
Citing shortfalls in the care currently provided to the country's 10 million cancer survivors, From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition recommends that each cancer patient receive a "survivorship care plan." Such plans should summarize information critical to the individual's long-term care, such as the cancer diagnosis, treatment, and potential consequences; the timing and content of follow-up visits; tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preventing recurrent or new cancers; legal rights affecting employment and insurance; and the availability of psychological and support services.
To ensure the best possible outcomes for cancer survivors, the committee aims in this report to:
- Raise awareness of the medical, functional, and psychosocial consequences of cancer and its treatment.
- Define quality health care for cancer survivors and identify strategies to achieve it.
- Improve the quality of life of cancer survivors through policies to ensure their access to psychosocial services, fair employment practices, and health insurance.
The committee's findings and recommendations in this report are directed to cancer patients and their advocates, health care providers and their leadership, health insurers and plans, employers, research sponsors, and the public and their elected representatives.