Someone in my family survived lung cancer six years ago. The treatment didn't include radiation or chemotherapy, and the tumor was removed neatly by an excellent surgeon. But the surgery scar still interferes with his normal muscle function, and the possibility that the cancer might come back is part of our family's collective consciousness - and worry.
My family member is just one of the 12 million Americans who have had cancer, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a survey last week describing some of the issues and health challenges facing these patients. In sum (and as a colleague discussed in a recent Stanford Medicine article), survivors may be cancer-free, but their bodies and minds are forever marked by their encounter with the disease.
The clinic, which will focus initially on gynecologic cancer survivors, joins a small but growing number of such clinics, where all care is focused on wellness post-cancer treatment. “There’s a whole body of knowledge, and more importantly, a whole collection of needs that cancer survivors have,” said Douglas Blayney, MD, the Cancer Center’s medical director. “Some are common across tumor types and some are unique to various tumor types. We are trying to meet those needs and serve those patients.”
At the clinic, patients will be given access to resources through Stanford's Cancer Supportive Care Program and will likely be seen by a nurse practitioner who was there during the course of initial treatment. Jonathan Berek, MD, director of the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center, emphasized, though, that being seen at the clinic isn't in lieu of being followed up by one's oncologist. The service, he said, is an adjunct to patients' care and something that offers "someone who can spend more time with them, go over tests, get them involved in support groups they haven’t been involved with and pay more attention to those needs not related to a cancer recurrence."
"The goal is to return to wellness, as defined by each individual," clinic manager Kelly Bugos, RN, NP, told me.
Previously: Cancer’s next stage: A report from Stanford Medicine magazine, Unique challenges face young women with breast cancer, A call for rehab services for cancer survivors, Fear of recurrence an issue for some cancer survivors and A look at how best to care for America’s growing population of cancer survivors
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben