A new template is now available for healthcare professionals to use when providing a survivorship care plan to cancer patients following their treatment. The template was released today by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and was developed under the leadership of Deborah K. Mayer, PhD, RN, chair of the ASCO Survivorship Care Plan Working Group, professor in the UNC School of Nursing and director of cancer survivorship at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Thanks to advances in prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer, there are now more than 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United States, up from just 3 million in 1971.
“As progress continues in the fight against cancer, the number of survivors continues to grow, along with the need for programs, resources and planning to help move beyond cancer diagnosis and treatment to wellness,” said Mayer. “At the end of their treatment, patients should expect to receive a survivorship care plan, but if they don’t get one, they should ask their doctor or nurse for one.”
The new template, updating a previous version ASCO developed nearly a decade ago, was published in the Journal of Oncology Practice as part of an ASCO statement on the importance of — and minimum components for — survivorship care plans.
“This cleaner, simpler form will help healthcare professionals get survivorship care plans into the hands of patients and their primary care providers,” said Mayer. In addition to Mayer, members of the ASCO Survivorship Care Plan Working Group include Lawrence N. Shulman, MD, Dana Farber Cancer Institute; Claire Snyder, PhD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; and Larissa Nekhlyudov, MD, MPH, Harvard Medical School.
The survivorship care plan contains important information about treatments the patient received, their need for future checkups and cancer tests, the potential long-term or late effects of the treatment they received, and ideas for ways survivors can improve their health.
The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons has endorsed ASCO’s recommendations for the minimum elements included in the new template for implementation with their Survivorship Care Plan Standard 3.3. The elements in the template were defined through a consensus process involving multi-disciplinary stakeholders, including oncology providers, social workers, survivors and primary care providers.
In 2005, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended the use of survivorship care plans, but implementation has been limited in oncology practice due to several barriers, including the time-consuming process of completing the template and lack of provider reimbursement for preparation time. An IRB-approved pilot test in 11 practices demonstrated that the new template is a time-saving and useful instrument that could make it easier for providers to fulfill the IOM’s recommendations.
Appointed UNC Lineberger’s director of cancer survivorship earlier this year, Mayer leads the cancer center’s effort to enhance clinical and research initiatives for cancer survivors. Mayer, a leading expert in survivorship and oncology nursing, focuses on survivorship research and training efforts aimed at improving programs for cancer survivors in North Carolina and across the nation.