Breast Cancer Survivorship: Coping with Challenges After a Cancer Diagnosis
Patients Benefit From the Breast Cancer Survivorship Program at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center
UH Seidman Cancer Center offers a special survivorship program for patients after treatment for breast cancer. Many patients have concerns about being a breast cancer survivor, including:
- How do I return to a normal life after cancer?
- How can I reduce my risk of developing another cancer?
- What are the warning signs of recurrence?
- Which doctor should I follow up with, and when?
- What is my treatment plan over the coming years?
- Who should I call if I have a problem?
The breast cancer survivorship program is staffed by specially trained nurse practitioners who care for patients, monitor health and educate on risk-reducing measures, knowing the signs and symptoms of recurrence and returning to health after cancer treatment. Topics such as exercise, diet, sexuality, and return to employment are routinely discussed at Survivorship visits.
Survivorship Risk Reduction Measures
During the first visit, the breast cancer survivor meets with the nurse practitioner to get a better understanding of the type of breast cancer and the treatments that were used. Additionally, the breast cancer patient gets the latest information on how to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Patients receive information on:
- How to recognize a possible recurrence and when to call the doctor’s office
- Information about lymphedema treatment and prevention (a referral is made to one of our lymphedema clinics if necessary)
- How and when to perform a breast self-exam
- The benefits of proper nutrition
- The importance of primary care visits as part of the survivorship plan
- Consequences of lifestyle behaviors such as drinking alcohol and smoking
- Specific recommendations for exercise
- A specific strategy for follow-up with the survivorship clinic as well as with surgical and radiation oncology providers
- The impact of a breast cancer diagnosis and the effects it has on patients and their families
Survivorship Plan of Care
Each patient receives a personalized End of Treatment Summary and Survivorship Plan after she completes her active treatment for breast cancer. This plan is shared with the patient and her primary care provider along with a letter introducing the University Hospitals survivorship practitioner and contact information.
At each visit, the survivorship practitioner performs a careful physical exam with attention to potential sites of breast cancer recurrence. Any recent test results, such as mammograms or bone density studies are reviewed. The patient is asked about new or unusual symptoms and her recovery from treatment. She is encouraged to talk openly with her provider and to learn about risk-reducing measures.
Patients who need physical or occupational therapy or other supportive services are referred from our Survivorship practice.