NASHVILLE — Although the number of cancer survivors is expected to increase to 19 million by 2024, the American Society of Clinical Oncology is predicting an oncologist shortage, positioning primary-care nurse practitioners to play a crucial role in survivorship care.
“NPs will be first-line providers of primary care for an increasing number of cancer survivors,” wrote Erin Lynden, MSN, ARNP, FNP-BC and Elaine D. Kauschinger, PhD, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, in a poster presented at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 2014 meeting.
Patients are considered cancer survivors from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their lives. Family members, friends, and caregivers of patients diagnosed with cancer are included in this definition, noted the researchers.
Understanding a survivorship care plan (SCP) is a crucial step for meeting the needs of cancer survivors, according to Lynden and Kauschinger. A SCP is a concise post-treatment plan for patient who has survived cancer prepared by an oncology specialists and/or interdisciplinary care team. A SCP can be shared with all healthcare providers who participate in provision of the medical care to the patient.
A SCP contains:
- Demographic information
- Cancer history and treatment
- Risk factors for recurrence
- Potential long-term and late side effects
- Signs and symptoms to be aware of
- Information on how to manage current symptoms
- Follow-up and surveillance tests
Although a SCP is a prerequisite for optimal medical care of the patient, many survivors are discharged from treatment without a plan, or the plan may not be readily accessible to primary care providers, noted Lyden and Kauschinger.
Coordinating with a patient’s specialty providers, being aware of national trends in survivorship healthcare, and adhering to a patient’s SCP can help primary-care NPs provide better quality care to the growing number of projected cancer survivors.