With care shifting to outpatient delivery and the increased availability of evidence-based support services, cancer care and survivor support has greatly evolved during the past 25 years, according to ONS member Carlin Callaway, DNP, MS, RN, ACNP-BC, ACNS-BC, AOCNP®, assistant professor and lead medical oncology advanced practice provider at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and member of the ONS Metro Denver Chapter, in a June 2022 public-facing blog post for the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Cancer.Net website.
Callaway compared oncology care in 1997 to that in 2022, explaining that symptom management is easier to achieve in modern times thanks to treatment advancements. Likewise, survivorship resources continue to improve.
“In 1997, although there were limited options for treating many types of cancer, there were also limited treatments for managing side effects, such as nausea and fatigue,” Callaway said. “For example, patients who experienced blood clots, which people with cancer are at increased risk for, were admitted to the hospital for days to receive treatment. They had to have their labs checked every six hours and remain on bed rest. Today, there are many effective treatments in preventing blood clots in people with cancer.”
She added, “For cancer survivors, specifically, support continues to evolve. For example, the 2005 Institute of Medicine report, From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor, was a positive step toward caring for people after cancer. The report issued 10 recommendations for helping cancer survivors transition from active treatment to life after cancer, including raising awareness, providing survivorship care plans, exploring late effects, testing models of care delivery, and increasing research efforts.”
But for all the progress, cancer survivors still experience challenges. Just because treatment ends, it doesn’t mean the side effects do, Callaway reminded.
“Many cancer survivors live with side effects even after treatment, including fatigue, sexual problems, and nerve problems,” she said. “Many survivors remain concerned about the chance of recurrence, the financial consequences associated with treatment and recovery, and their increased risk of developing additional cancers. Survivors may also experience emotional challenges, including anxiety and survivor’s guilt.”
She encouraged cancer survivors to reach out to their survivorship care team, particularly oncology nurses, for resources and support.