Sunday, October 7, 2007

Breast Cancer and Colon Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Guides -- A Good Idea

The American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) last month announced that they would have suggested treatment plans and summaries for breast cancer and colon cancer care as well as a survivorship plan available on their website. The former is for oncologists and the latter is for their patients. The treatment plan and summary, which consists of two pages will help oncologists summarize and review important clinical information and well as pre and post chemotherapy information to make it easier to deliver care. These forms were not intended to replace the usual detailed medical documentation, history taking, physical examination, and assessments that oncologists already were accustomed to doing.

While it remains to be seen how doctors will feel about the treatment plan and summary forms, breast cancer as well as colon cancer patients will like the one page survivorship plan. Treatment of cancer is already a complicated and potentially confusing process with many different treatments, dates treatments are given, and when the various office visits and follow-up tests are needed. The survivorship plan provides a basic road map so that an individual patient will have a basic idea of what to expect over the next few weeks, months, and years. It was recommended that the details of the plan should be tailored to the individual's unique circumstances.

This initial effort is a step in the right direction. With doctors busier and more rushed than in the past and patients faced not only with the emotional impact of coping with cancer as well as the logistical challenges of getting treatment, these forms provide a starting point of conversation between oncologists and patients. Already ASCO is working on developing treatment summary plans and survivorship plans for other cancers.

If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or colon cancer, download the relevant survivorship plan (and even the treatment plan and summary form) and bring it to your oncologist. It can only help you navigate through what is often a trying and confusing time.

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