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10 Takeaways: The Future of Cancer Survivorship

Posted on December 10, 2013

Psychotherapy

Through their work with legislators and policymakers, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) works to improve the quality of care and quality of life after diagnosis for the nearly 14 million cancer survivors in the United States. Our very own Dr. Laura Porter attended the Coalition’s recent biannual roundtable. See where the future of survivorship is headed from her top 10 takeaways.

Dr. Laura Porter, MD, stage IV colon cancer survivor and Colon Cancer Alliance Patient Advocate Medical Consultant.

Dr. Laura Porter, MD, stage IV colon cancer survivor and Colon Cancer Alliance Patient Advocate Medical Consultant.

On Building a Sustainable Cancer Care System

  • It’s time to start treating patients as people.
    This means taking a serious look at quality of life. Survivorship plans need to include palliative care and end of life planning. This year at the ASCO Annual Meeting, experts reported that early palliative care – which included counseling, symptom management and critical relationship building – has led  to patients with advanced cancer living longer and receiving less chemotherapy near the end of life.
  • Both doctors and patients need a better understanding of what palliative care is.
     Palliative care is not hospice. Palliative care is managing pain and other symptoms to make sure a patient has the best quality of life possible. [READ MORE]: 6 Myths About Palliative Care I Wish I’d Known
  • Families and caregivers need to understand that palliative care does not mean a patient is giving up.
  • It is important to involve families in the discussion of palliative care.
    Studies by Coping with Cancer show that the caregivers’ perception of distress during end of life was associated with severe depression. But families can benefit from palliative care services too, including counseling. Involvement of palliative care specialists resulted in lower odds of chemotherapy and ICU or emergency room visits. It has been reported that aggressive care at the end of life is bad for patients and families.
  • We cannot put a price tag on treatment or life.
    I went on Avastin to treat my colon cancer when it was first approved in 2005, even while knowing that the odds were it would only increase my life expectancy by two months. That was seven years ago, and today I am cancer free. To me it was worth the price. This New York Times article breaks down the issue.

On Implementation of the Affordable Care Act

  • Take advantage of your resources.
    Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid was expanded. So when you put in your information for healthcare, you may discover that you are now eligible for Medicaid when you weren’t before.
  • Choose your health insurance wisely.
    When choosing health insurance it is important to not only look at the premiums but also the co-pays and what the covered services are. This is important when choosing a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) or a Medicare supplemental insurance plan. Again, a low premium can sometimes cost you more in the long run because they may have higher deductibles.
  • Check, check and double check.
    Make sure your providers are covered under your new plan unless you want to pay more out of pocket or change doctors.

On Helpful Resources

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