Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Survivorship Plan

Boy, the articles just keep coming.

Noah sent me this bit from Yahoo! News about survivorship plans, a new trend (like fab shades!) in cancer care. My own oncologist did not give me a written plan, but I am clear on many things:

  • For the next year (like the last), I'll have checks every 3 months. This includes blood testing, to look for chemical markers of breast cancer recurrence, and physical exams.
  • Once a year, I have a mammogram. If anything funky is found then or at any other time, I may also have an MRI.
  • If I were to notice any difficulty breathing or other heart-related symptoms, I expect I would have an echocardiogram, since I had some of the chemo drugs that can cause heart failure. But there is no special monitoring of that because I've seemed heart-healthy.
  • After the next year, my exams will go to 4- to 6- month intervals for up to the 5-year mark. After that, they may revert to annual checks.
  • I have my nutrition plan with my nutritional oncologist, ongoing.
  • I have copies of all my records, including pathology reports and treatment records.

What I don't have is a very specific list of symptoms to watch out for. I have a mixed opinion of that piece of advice. The power of suggestibility surely has to be weighed against the benefits of knowing what to look for. If I knew that a persistent pain in the 3rd rib from center was a warning sign of metastasis, I'd be rubbing that 3rd rib constantly to assess it, and pretty soon it would indeed hurt like hell! So perhaps being in the dark a bit is good for me here.

Overall, though, it seems to me that better knowledge and awareness are being emphasized, and that is terrific. Also, the medical community is awakening to the fact that cancer treatment is emotionally and cognitively overwhelming, and realizing that we'll all have better outcomes if physicians take on just a tiny bit more of the burden of managing information (not just drugs and procedures). Based on the confusion I saw even in intelligent, thoughtful members of my own support group, this will surely help!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Overall, though, it seems to me that better knowledge and awareness are being emphasized, and that is terrific."

You should also note that, as a source of knowledge and awareness, YOU (and your blog) are terrific.

And who's this Noah guy?