For patients with cancer, recovery doesn’t end when the treatment stops.
Unprecedented gains have been made in the cure rates for childhood cancer during the past decade. This progress reflects the medical community’s dedication to cancer research, innovative treatment methods, and a relatively new multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. Because of this steady improvement and the growing knowledge on how to treat the disease, more and more children are beating cancer and becoming classified as childhood cancer survivors.
Of course, fighting cancer takes a huge physical and emotional toll and often has lingering effects that can last long after the cancer has gone. The impact of the disease not only affects the patient, but also the patient’s parents and other family members. As part of our dedication to heal, Primary Children’s Hospital is working hard to ensure that patients and their families continue to receive the care and support they need, even after the cancer treatment has ended. That’s why we’re involved in numerous research studies to help break down any barriers that might stop a patient from continuing to receive care. Our goal is to ensure that all cancer patients receive the physical, emotional, social, and financial support they need to live long, healthy, and productive lives after cancer.
One key initiative at Primary Children’s Hospital is creating customized care plans for cancer survivors. The project is led by Anne Kirchhoff, PhD, MPH, who was awarded a Hyundai Hope on Wheels grant to embark on this project. The goal is to deliver better support for patients in the long term by designing a customized plan that not only maps out the follow-up care needed, but also provides connections to resources.
A Longterm Plan for Survivors of Childhood Cancer
Every cancer survivor has different needs, based on the type of cancer they had, the treatment they received, and a combination of other physical, emotional, social, and financial factors. Each individualized Survivorship Care Plan will cover the follow-up physical care a patient will require, while keeping a sharp focus on emotional and social needs the patient has throughout the transition from cancer treatment to primary care and life outside the hospital. The customized plan will become a priceless resource for the cancer patient, family members, and the medical service providers that continue to treat the patient throughout the patient’s lifetime.
The project is currently in the needs assessment phase. Dr. Kirchhoff and her team are working with pediatric cancer patients and their families, as well as with physicians, nurses, social workers, and other medical professionals who are part of the cancer care team. The study is also assessing ways that a Survivorship Care Plan can be included in every cancer patient’s medical record, so that important details about the patient’s medical history, and anticipated future needs, can be easily, yet safely shared with all care providers.
Financial barriers to care and access to health insurance are also serious concerns being researched by Dr. Kirchhoff and other Primary Children’s physicians, including Dr. Mark Fluchel. In an effort to find better ways to support pediatric cancer survivors and their families in the long term, studies are being conducted to determine the direct and indirect healthcare costs that cancer survivors continue to face. As we gather more information and identify barriers to healthcare, we are better able to develop customized care plans that address monetary concerns and provide connections to financial supports.
Helping to develop comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Care Plans is one of the many ways Primary Children’s Hospital is working to improve the quality of life for our patients. When a child is diagnosed with cancer, there are a million immediate needs that must be met. Our aim as a hospital is to be there every step of the way—during the fight and after—helping patients not only to make smooth transitions back into their lives, but also to help ensure that their lives are as full and fulfilling as they can be.