If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, it's important to know that more and more patients are surviving the disease.
Because the medical community continues to make extraordinary strides in cancer treatment, an increasing number of patients are recovering from cancer and going on to live long and healthy lives. By 2022, the the number of people who have lived more than 5 years following diagnosis is projected to increase approximately 37% to 11.9 million cancer survivors.
Most survivors will want to take action to make sure their cancer doesn’t come back. That's where Yale Cancer Center's Survivorship Program can help. Our team of experts meet with patients to help them readjust to daily life after diagnosis and treatment. "Patients walk away with an individual treatment summary and survivorship care plan," says Tara Sanft, MD, medical director of adult survivorship for the program. She is also a professor of medical oncology at the Yale School of Medicine.
At Yale Medicine, we recognize that a growing number of survivors may feel alienated or frustrated by challenges they face once in remission. Our Survivorship Program brings together doctors from across disciplines to help patients and families with every aspect of life after cancer. These experts offer consultations on overall wellness, nutrition, exercise, strategies for coping with physical and sexual intimacy changes after surgery or chemotherapy and up-to-date information on the most recent research related to remission.
What does the survivorship program offer?
The Yale Cancer Center brings together a team of leading oncologists, clinicians and scientists. The main goal of the a survivorship program is to offer each patient a customized treatment plan and a roadmap for life after cancer. Often, former cancer patients have questions that go beyond the scope of their oncologist’s expertise.
For example, they might have questions about which exercise program is best for them as they recover from cancer or which diet might suit their busy work schedule. Our providers offer patients and families information on wellness and support services. In addition, the program helps coach each patient on the best ways to prevent cancer from coming back.
What treatments does the program offer?
On the day of the appointment, the patient will share his or her own goals and desires for a post-cancer life. Based on this information, we build a tailored plan that incorporates specific recommendations around routine cancer screening.
Plus, wellness education, psychosocial support for survivors and families, nutritional counseling and fitness recommendations. The customized plan can be shared with a patient’s primary caregiver or referring physician.
What are the most important first steps for cancer survivors?
Although survivorship plans will be different for each patient, experts recommend that cancer survivors quit smoking, cut down on alcohol, adopt a healthy diet and exercise for 30 minutes every day. "Patients may have control of disease with diet and exercise," says Dr. Sanft, who notes that research shows losing just 6 pounds can reduce cancer reoccurrence by 24 percent.
Cancer survivorship often incorporates mindfulness and mental well-being. Many survivors may benefit from counseling to address stress or depression they may experience. In addition, a maintaining a strong support network is an important part of survivorship. Many former cancer patients rely on strong social bonds with family and friends to help them adjust. Yale Cancer Center's Survivorship Program offers psychosocial support for survivors and families.
What are the future risks for cancer survivors?
People who have had cancer once are more likely to get it again, particularly those who do not maintain an active and healthy lifestyle after recovery. Cancer survivors should focus on keeping their immune systems healthy, which starts with improving both mental and physical well-being.
What additional services are available through the Survivorship Program?
The Survivorship Program offers referral-based services, including community mental health providers and support groups for issues like sexual health, smoking cessation and many others.
The clinic also refers patients to genetic counseling, neurocognitive assessment and complementary therapies like massage, reiki and guided imagery.
What makes Yale Medicine's approach to cancer survivorship so unique?
At Yale Medicine, our doctors understand that having cancer can be a life-altering experience. Survivors often have to adapt to a “new normal” that includes lifestyle changes and more frequent doctor visits.
Because every survivor’s experience is different, each patient who visits our Survivorship Program receives an individualized care plan with specific recommendations and support for issues ranging from social and emotional wellness to nutrition plans and exercise programs.