The words of Georgia’s cancer survivors reveal: Their hardship doesn’t end with their treatment.
They’ve been fortunate, yes. But their journey is far from over…
An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore considered in this category as well. Intensive studies of survivors show they face struggles that are…
Physical: A lasting toll from chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments, chronic pain
Practical: Mounting debt and difficulty resuming work and responsibilities
Emotional: Depression and a powerful fear of cancer returning
Spiritual: Loss of faith or hope, even end-of-life thoughts
The medical community has begun paying more attention to these needs. “Cancer treatment” has evolved to provide care for the whole person … for the rest of life. That’s why Georgia CORE – which works to strengthen cancer care throughout our state – includes strategies to support “survivorship” in its efforts.
Our state is home to an estimated 446,900 people who have survived cancer. A recent survey of more than 800 of these survivors revealed a wide range of physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs. It was the first statewide cancer needs assessment survey conducted in Georgia.
Georgia CORE has been at the forefront of helping Georgia’s cancer survivors.
We’ve done this through research…
- Surveyed Georgia hospitals (twice) to assess how they served survivors
- Surveyed survivors (twice) to evaluate their needs and how well those needs are being met. One focused on disparate populations with translations in Spanish, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese
- Analyzed feedback from survivors on a pilot intervention program, in partnership with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (Learn more about our PCORI grant here.)
- Held “Best and Promising Practices” conference for healthcare providers and administrators
- Convened clinicians, practitioners and others for a second conference, “Survivorship: Up Close and Personal”
- Provided follow-up materials to wider group of stakeholders
- Published article on survivorship in Journal of Georgia Public Health Association
- Launched the Cancer Survivorship Connection, a major initiative that provides Georgia’s survivors with resources and tools to improve their quality of life
- Started a pilot program (in partnership with Pfizer) for survivors of prostate cancer, providing videos, articles and an app “Living With” to track symptoms and future care
- Designed and developed a telephone intervention (CORE:ReCHARGE) to improve survivorship care and outcomes
Now, we must do more to help them.
Georgians are beating cancer more than ever, thanks to advances in research and treatments. That’s great news. But so many Georgians who have battled cancer continue to suffer. They need help in life beyond treatment. Past success shows our state has the infrastructure to provide this help. We also have a plan – the Cancer Survivorship Strategic Plan. By putting this plan to work, Georgia can address the real needs of its cancer survivors. We can also become a national leader in an emerging area of care.
Here’s how we can build on the three areas of progress so far:
- Deepen exploration of what works in hospitals’ Survivorship Care Plans
- Develop an agenda to implement best-practice Survivorship Care plans and use technology more effectively
- Fund select research projects and trials at community sites to address unmet needs
- Continue generating data on survivors’ needs and perspectives
- Develop standardized education materials on survivorship for healthcare workers and clinical staff
- Leverage the Cancer Survivorship E-training program (from George Washington Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society) to train healthcare providers about meeting the needs of cancer providers
- Continue staging conferences and workshops for healthcare providers and stakeholders
- Host regional forums on survivorship
- Enhance current online tools and apps to share data better, connect survivors to providers and offer new knowledge
- Establish an advocacy council to reach more Georgians with information on survivorship
- Georgians who survive cancer deserve our attention – and help.
One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in life. Most will survive – and of course, that’s good news. But surviving brings need for all kinds of support. If you’d like to get involved with Georgia’s Survivors Advisory Council, contact Georgia CORE at 404.523.8735. Or email us.