What is a Survivorship Care Plan?

A Survivorship Care Plan is a document that includes a treatment summary and a coordinated follow-up plan of care, including standards for follow-up care and strategies to maintain your health.  It is a great way to organize all of your health information regarding your breast cancer journey and to keep track of what you need to do going forward (e.g. what doctors should you visit and how frequently).   

Survivorship Care Plans exists for many reasons, including:

  • Prevention and detection of new cancers and recurrent cancer
  • Surveillance for recurrence or new primaries
  • Interventions for long-term and late effects from cancer and its therapies
  • Coordination between specialists and primary care providers to ensure survivors needs are met 

What are the key components of the Survivorship Care Plan?

Survivorship Care Plans typically include:

  • Contact information for the patient’s care team
  • A record of your medical history, including a summary of your cancer diagnosis (e.g. type and stages) and treatment (e.g. type, side effects, and dates) or supportive services received
  • Schedule for follow-up tests and surveillance
  • Psychosocial assessment
  • Information on managing ongoing symptoms and what to expect after treatment (e.g. late effects and signs of recurrence)
  • Tips on cancer prevention and suggestions for maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • How to find quality health care and other support services 

Who typically receives a Survivorship Care Plan and when do they normally receive one?

You may receive it at any point during your cancer care treatment, but the plan is usually offered as you finish initial treatment. The 2012 Commission on Cancer Program Standards require as of 2015 that all accredited cancer centers provide a Survivorship Care Plan to patients at the end of active treatment.  Private physicians are NOT required to provide a care plan if they are not part of an accredited cancer center. So, you may or may not receive one, depending on where you are receiving your treatment. For a list of accredited cancer centers, please visit:
http://www2.breastcare.org/breast-centers/ 

If my doctor doesn’t provide me with a Survivorship Care Plan, where can I get one?

If you are not automatically offered a Survivorship Care Plan, ask your healthcare provider if they can provide you with a template and/or help you create one. If your treatment ended a while ago, you may need to gather your medical records from other doctors first. You can create a plan at any time.

Survivorship Care Plan templates can be found at:
journeyforward.org
cancer.net

There are also sites, such as LIVESTRONG Survivorship Care Program, where survivors can enter their own treatment information and obtain a customized plan.

Who fills out, updates and reviews the Survivorship Care Plan?

Survivorship Care Plans are typically created by an oncology nurse or nurse navigator. But they may also be completed by an oncologist, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, nurse or lay navigator, or even registry technician using most recent medical records. Keep lines of communication open with your oncology team and primary care provider to work on developing a successful Survivorship Care Plan. Survivorship Care Plans should really be developed and maintained as result of a joint effort between the cancer survivor, oncology provider, primary care provider, and any other healthcare specialists regularly involved in the survivor’s care.

Why should I have a Survivorship Care Plan?

Survivorship Care Plans improve communication between you and your cancer care team, and between your cancer care team and other doctors who provide ongoing care for you after you finish breast cancer treatment. It helps all of the health care providers involved in your care to better manage your care, including understanding issues such as the likelihood of recurrence. It helps to maintain an ongoing and informed dialogue between you and your doctors to address ongoing problems, to look for effects that mays develop late, and to make sure the cancer does not return. Understanding what to expect after cancer treatment can help survivors plan for follow-up care, make positive lifestyle changes, and make important health-related decisions.

For more information about Survivorship Care Plans, please visit:
http://www.cancer.net/sites/cancer.net/files/cancer_survivorship.pdf

There are several survivorship clinics located in New Jersey, including:
Cancer Institute of New Jersey
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center