Distribution of Survivorship Care Plans Lacking Among Patients with Cancer

Despite recommendations to do so, distribution of survivorship care plans still has not increased for survivors of cancer, according to a recent study.
There was no significant increase of survivorship care plans (SCPs) given to patients with cancer from 2015 onward, despite calls from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Commission on Cancer (CoC) to deliver one following completion of treatment, according to a new study.

The findings were presented during a poster session at the 2017 Cancer Survivorship Symposium held January 27-28 in San Diego.

A survey was distributed to 312 patients – 66 percent of whom had breast cancer – through social media platforms. These included Tweet chats, Facebook groups, blogs and targeted emails. The survey was conducted between March and April 2016. The researchers chose to reach cancer-related communities using social media since that is where many patients turn to in order to obtain information and communicate with others for support.

Sixty-three percent (194 patients) had completed treatment, excluding endocrine therapy. Based on this group, researchers found 88.2 percent (171 patients) did not receive an SCP, while 11.8 percent (23 patients) did receive one.

The authors on the study noted that a 2005 IOM report resulted in a call to develop survivorship programs for patients that included guidelines for monitoring and maintaining their health. In January 2015, the CoC set a standard requiring the delivery of an SCP to patients at the completion of treatment. However, a survey given at that time, found just over a third of hospital programs felt confident that the requirement could be met.

The findings of this study appear to show this is where institutions are still struggling years later.

A survivorship care plan should be created by a patient’s physician to guide them in their journey after cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) offers its own plan that “contains important information about the given treatment, the need for future check-ups and cancer tests, the potential long-term late effects of the treatment you received and ideas for improving your health.”

Interestingly, the survey also identified that a majority (65 percent) of patients who did not get an SCP felt that one would have been helpful following completion of their treatment. Of the SCPs that were received, most were provided to patients in paper form. Survey results found that 50 percent of patients would prefer an SCP to be delivered on paper, 41 percent would prefer it through an online patient portal and 9 percent would prefer email.

Overall, the authors suggested that the CoC may not reach its goals for SCPs based on these findings.

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