Care of cancer patients should not stop immediately after they complete medical treatment. Many individuals experience physical side effects during treatment that can linger, as well as new physical and emotional symptoms after they have completed treatment. The Cone Health Cancer Center has created a new survivorship program to help patients transition from treatment into a new normal life. Cone Health’s Survivorship Program connects a multidisciplinary team of social workers, nutritionists, chaplains, genetic counselors, nurses and others, with cancer survivors to answer any needs that may arise after treatment.
As of now, the survivorship program is reaching breast cancer survivors, but is working to expand into all categories of cancer survivorship.
It is common for cancer survivors to experience fatigue, weight changes, sexual dysfunction and especially anxiety after their treatment has ended. It is important for to learn how to cope with the fear that cancer might return, as well as how to develop and maintain healthy relationships with friends and family. Patients are encouraged to talk through any concerns or needs they have with their survivorship team to find ways to help manage on their own or be referred to specialists when necessary.
The survivorship program staff also partners with your primary care physician to keep him or her updated with the details of your treatment and what your follow-up schedule is.
Since each patient’s needs are different, the survivorship team creates individualized care plans for each patient that details the patient’s diagnosis, the treatment the patient received, as well as a schedule for follow-up visits. They review the care plan in person, so the patient can ask questions, and they provide a list of support groups, classes and other resources offered by Cone Health or in the community. Support and care after cancer treatment can help everyone, men and women, reclaim their lives and well-being. Cone Health understands this, which is why they have an entire team of support staff at the Cancer Center dedicated to helping patients through treatment, as well as supporting and empowering them in their survivorship.
Gretchen Dawson is an oncology nurse practitioner at the Cone Health Cancer Center. She received a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a Master of Science in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006 and 2014, respectively. Gretchen completed a post-graduate fellowship in oncology nursing at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2015.