(February 11, 2014) Sellersville, PA - Surviving cancer is a victory for many. Today, due to advances in early detection and treatment, people are living longer after a cancer diagnosis. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 13 million American cancer survivors are alive today, and the numbers are growing. The ACS estimates that by January 1, 2022, the population of cancer survivors will increase to almost 18 million.
Cancer survivors—defined as anyone diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their life—often face a host of challenges even after their treatment has ended. “Beyond the potential permanent side effects of treatment and the need for long-term medical follow-up and routine preventive medical care, survivors often struggle with emotional issues like dealing with the effects of their cancer experience on personal relationships and coping with the reality that their cancer may return,” said Fox Chase Cancer Center medical oncologist, Crystal S. Denlinger, MD.
Survivorship indeed represents a key component on the continuum of cancer care. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has developed guidelines to help primary care doctors and oncologists develop a plan for follow-up of their patients after treatment and to promote healthy cancer survivorship. The NCCN Survivorship Guidelines cover 8 distinct areas: anxiety and depression, cognitive function, exercise, fatigue, immunizations and infections, pain, sexual function, and sleep disorders. Dr. Denlinger chairs the Survivorship Guidelines panel, which released the inaugural version of the guidelines at last year’s NCCN Annual Meeting in Hollywood, Fl.
Survivorship and Emotional Health
People finished with cancer treatment have a greater risk of developing anxiety and depression, and of experiencing issues like the fear of recurrence. Transitions from active treatment to post-treatment surveillance can be especially difficult. This is a time when survivors need people they can turn to for strength and comfort—whether from family, friends, cancer support groups, church groups, online support groups, or counselors. Physicians should routinely assess the mental health of each cancer survivor and provide appropriate support and referrals if high levels of distress are identified.
Survivorship and Exercise
Research shows that exercise is safe and beneficial for cancer survivors. Beyond reducing the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer, exercise helps to prevent weight gain and improve mood. It also may curb fatigue and depression in cancer survivors.
According to the ACS, “Physical activity after diagnosis is linked to living longer and a reduced risk of the cancer returning among people living with cancer, including breast, colorectal, prostate, and ovarian cancer.” General recommendations include engaging in at least 75-150 minutes of exercise per week, depending on intensity, as well as 2-3 weekly sessions of strength training and stretching that includes major muscle groups.
“Being physically active is an important part of survivorship, and should be encouraged for all our cancer survivors. However, survivors should discuss their exercise goals and capabilities with their health care providers so that they are safe and able to exercise,” said Dr. Denlinger. “They need to listen to their bodies and communicate with their doctor at every visit.”
Survivorship and Sexual Health
Sexual health is an essential component to one’s overall physical and emotional well-being. However, it is common for both male and female cancer survivors to experience changes in their sex life after treatment. Sexual problems after cancer treatment are often caused by changes to the body from surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, or by the effects of certain medicines. Emotional issues may also be the root of sexual problems. Depending on one’s type of cancer, sexual issues can be short-term or long-term. In order to treat them, physicians must openly discuss sexual function with their patients and be aware of potential resources for help in managing this often under-diagnosed effect of treatment.
To learn more about survivorship services at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Grand View Hospital, visit www.foxchase.org
As a Fox Chase Cancer Center Partner, Grand View Hospital has early access to new research discoveries on cancer prevention and treatment. Fox Chase Cancer Center Partners is a select group of community hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey affiliated with Fox Chase Cancer Center—part of Temple Health—to provide the latest in cancer research, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in their own communities. Temple Health refers to the health, education and research activities carried out by the affiliates of Temple University Health System and by Temple University School of Medicine.
About Grand View Hospital
Grand View Hospital, Bucks County’s first hospital, has provided residents of Bucks and Montgomery counties with comprehensive healthcare services since 1913. Now a century strong, Grand View offers a range of inpatient and outpatient care—particularly emphasizing the areas of surgery and orthopaedics, women’s and children’s health, heart and vascular care, and cancer treatment. For more information about services and programs, visit www.gvh.org.