Specialist cancer nurse Professor Raymond Chan stresses that cancer survivors are not receiving the care they need after treatment. The standard approach for follow-up care involves scheduling appointments with cancer care clinics, where patients may wait a long time to see a doctor who checks their blood test results before ending the appointment. However, this approach does not address cancer survivors’ many health problems, such as depression, heart problems, and erectile dysfunction, which can result from cancer treatment. In turn, patients may feel their needs are not being met, leaving them feeling unsupported and uncared for.
The Department of Health and Aged Care reports that cancer specialists at hospitals simply do not have the time or resources to provide comprehensive care for cancer survivors. Instead, he proposes a patient-centred approach to addressing survivors’ health issues. In this article, let’s delve into the current state of patient-centred care for cancer survivors and what his proposal involves.
Cancer Survivorship in Australia
Cancer survivorship is the period after a person has completed their cancer treatment. Cancer survivors are increasing globally due in part to improved cancer detection and treatment options.
In Australia, the number of cancer survivors is projected to increase by 72% between 2019 and 2040, highlighting the need for better follow-up care. Despite this, many cancer survivors feel unsupported and struggle to access care for ongoing health needs. This has led to a growing recognition of a patient-centred approach to address the concerns in availing of post-treatment support.
Challenges to Overcome
Cancer survivors face a range of challenges following their treatment. Some of these include:
Physical Health Issues
Cancer treatment aftereffects may lead to physical health issues for individuals, including:
Survivors may also have an increased risk of other health problems, such as heart disease and osteoporosis.
Emotional and Mental Health Issues
Anxiety, depression, and fear of cancer recurrence are among the emotional and mental health issues experienced by individuals who have recovered from cancer. The psychological effects of cancer treatment can be long-lasting and may require ongoing support.
Cancer treatment can be expensive, and survivors may face financial challenges. Due to ongoing health issues, survivors may struggle with medical bills, lost wages, and reduced ability to work.
Cancer survivors may feel isolated or stigmatised due to their illness. Due to ongoing health issues, they may struggle to maintain relationships or participate in social activities.
Lack of Comprehensive Follow-Up Care
Survivors frequently lack access to thorough follow-up care that effectively meets their ongoing health requirements. As a result, these individuals can feel unsupported and neglected.
What is Patient-centered Care in Cancer Treatment?
Patient-centred care is an approach to healthcare that prioritises the needs and preferences of patients. Cancer treatment can be complex and overwhelming, and patients require support and guidance to make informed decisions about their care. A patient-centred approach involves:
- listening to patients
- involving them in their care
- providing them with the information and resources they need to make informed decisions
This can lead to better health outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, and a more positive patient experience.
The Proposal for Cancer Survivors
After surviving cancer, patients require ongoing support and care that addresses their unique physical, emotional, and mental health needs. Patient-centred care is critical in this context, as it ensures that survivors are monitored for cancer recurrence and receive comprehensive care that addresses the many challenges they face.
Involving a Team of Healthcare Professionals
Professor Chan proposes a multi-disciplinary team approach to improve follow-up care for cancer survivors. He suggests that General Practitioners (GPs) and nurses can provide some of the required follow-up care. However, they often lack information on their patients’ cancer treatment history, which makes it challenging to deliver comprehensive care. To address this issue, Professor Chan recommends creating a nurse-led clinic where a specialist cancer nurse would create a customised plan to meet the patient’s ongoing health needs. This approach would empower the patient to take control of their health by collaborating with their health professionals to coordinate care between the hospital and their GP.
Individualised Care Planning through Case Conferences
To ensure that each cancer survivor receives the appropriate care, the specialist cancer nurse holds a case conference with the patient’s GP and practice nurse. The nurse discusses the patient’s specialised needs and recommends how the GP can provide ongoing care. The GP can ask questions during the conference and clarify the best course of action.
The Shared Care Model
The professor is optimistic that the shared care model will bring about a change in the healthcare system. He believes it will become the norm if enough GPs participate in the shared care model. Hospitals will communicate better, and GPs will be better informed on how to care for cancer survivors. He also hopes that the trials’ evidence will lead to policy change and positively influence the system more significantly than one GP practice at a time.
Despite cancer survivors’ challenges, the healthcare system is constantly evolving to provide better care and support for these individuals in their journey toward optimal health and wellness. Knowing about the challenges faced by cancer survivors can be relevant in first aid practice as it can help first responders and caregivers provide more comprehensive and compassionate care.
CPR First Aid Australia RTO NO. 21903 offers courses that cover a wide range of first-aid techniques, including specific training for responding to medical emergencies.