Finding the right support and guidance as you manage a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and life beyond cancer is critical to your long-term physical and emotional health.
A cancer survivorship plan or clinic can provide these services throughout your journey and for years after cancer treatment is over.
Anyone with a cancer diagnosis can participate in a survivorship plan. This includes people who are recently diagnosed, currently receiving care, or post-treatment.
Here’s a quick overview of a breast cancer survivorship plan with specific questions addressed.
The goal of a cancer survivorship plan is to coordinate care between various physicians, specialists, and other experts who play a role during active treatment and beyond. Survivorship care is essential to any cancer treatment, especially since people may be at risk for recurrence.
Many people with breast cancer may stop systemic treatment that requires frequent visits to oncologists and other cancer specialists. As a result, they may miss regular check-ins and communication with their care team. Having a survivorship plan can ensure that you’re still in contact with your care team if any issues arise.
A long-term survivorship plan allows your doctor to monitor the late effects of treatment, administer follow-up tests, and address general symptoms that may indicate cancer is returning.
But most importantly, a cancer survivorship plan enables you to take an active part in your health. It also gives you the tools to educate family, friends, and other healthcare professionals about your needs.
Some people develop a breast cancer survivorship plan after being diagnosed, while others wait until later in the process or even after treatment is finished.
Think of a cancer survivorship plan as a roadmap for life during and after treatment. It’s a complete record of your cancer history. This document may be written and placed in a file or stored electronically.
While each survivorship care plan is unique, the
- summary page or documents that detail your diagnosis, tests, visits, and treatment
- calendar for follow-up exams and tests
- recommendations for early detection screening for other cancers
- recommendations for tests that address any long-term effects from your breast cancer treatment
- list of side effects or long-term symptoms that may warrant a phone call to your doctor
- overall health and lifestyle modifications with after-care suggestions about diet and exercise
- information to help meet your emotional, social, legal, and financial needs
- referrals to specialists
The survivorship plan should be shared with other healthcare professionals, especially your primary care doctor, who may see you more often but aren’t experts in oncology care.
Cancer survivorship includes everything from the initial diagnosis to long-term recovery and people living with cancer as a chronic disease or experiencing a recurrence or subsequent cancer, according to the
Several organizations, hospitals, and experts categorize survivorship into three phases: active treatment or living with and through cancer, post-treatment or living beyond cancer, and long-term follow-up.
Within those three phases, cancer survivorship may include the following stages:
- diagnosis to completion of initial treatment
- completion of treatment to remission
- recovery from treatment
- long-term recovery and follow-up
Your doctor or another member of your care team will likely discuss a survivorship care plan during your breast cancer treatment or after you finish. If you’re part of a cancer center, they may have a separate clinic or area dedicated to survivorship care plans.
If your doctor or clinic doesn’t discuss a survivorship care plan with you, you can ask for this information in a format that will be most helpful to you.
You can also use survivorship care plans from organizations like the
Many cancer centers will coordinate a survivorship visit once you complete treatment. Your survivorship visit may be a one-time event or consultation where you’re given the treatment and summary cancer survivorship plan that’s unique to you.
During this visit, you’ll meet with members of a cancer survivorship team, such as a nurse, physician, or social worker, who will review your overall care and develop a survivorship care plan, which may
- a review of your cancer history
- ongoing treatment for your cancer
- information about long-term, side, or late effects of treatment
- discuss possible psychological effects and ongoing support
- risk-reducing strategies like identifying whether you’re at a higher risk of a different cancer
- addressing other medical issues that can happen during treatment or after
- review insurance, employment, and financial needs
- recommendations for follow-up care
- optimization of health behaviors (e.g., smoking cessation, exercise, diet, and maintaining a moderate weight)
- cancer-related resources
A breast cancer survivorship plan is designed to provide support, guidance, and critical medical information to patients during a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. The survivorship visit is a key component of this plan.
You should leave a breast cancer survivorship visit with a care plan that’s unique to you. This treatment summary and care plan are based on your personal history and cancer type, with details about tumor characteristics, treatment specifics, and recommendations for the best way to move forward.
If you have any questions about a survivorship care plan, talk with your doctor or contact the survivorship plan at your cancer center.