Cancer Survivorship: Pathways to Health After Treatment:
Survivor-Researcher Mentor Program
National Priorities in Cancer Survivorship
“Advancing the Survivorship Agenda” a personal reflection by Michael Lin
Special Assistant, Lance Armstrong Foundation
With over 9 million cancer survivors alive today, cancer survivorship represents a shift from just extending the quantity of life to also ensuring a high quality of life. Cancer survivorship is a relatively new term which encompasses issues that cancer patients and survivors face relating to the physical, emotional and practical effects of cancer. On a national level, survivorship is beginning to be addressed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) through the Office of Cancer Survivorship and also by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These initiatives are part of the national healthcare goal of “Healthy People 2010” and NCI’s goal to “eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer by 2015.” The topic of National Priorities in Addressing Cancer Survivorship interested me because of the variance in services at cancer centers and community hospitals where cancer patients are treated. Change on a national level will improve care in many communities. Also, my work at the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) where the main focus is survivorship is another reason for my interest in this topic.
At the conference I came to a few conclusions and formed a few opinions of my own. I found that interest in survivorship is slowly evolving through the development of research grants by NIH and NCI (and grants from organizations like the LAF!). While it is easy to study and understand the long-term physical outcomes of treatment, it is quite difficult to study the emotional or psychosocial effects and the benefit of an intervention. The biggest obstacle for survivorship is in determining the value of quality of life. I think that many researchers and policy makers do not quite understand the need for survivorship research. While still very important, most scientists are still solely focused on development of a cure. In order to truly address the issue of survivorship I feel that more participation from physicians needs to be solicited since they are the direct contact to patients. At this conference, I only saw a few physicians and the rest were researchers with PhD’s in various health disciplines. However, it was encouraging to learn that the American Society for Clinical Oncology and the American College of Surgeons were working together to develop long-term follow-up guidelines analogous to the Children’s Oncology Group guidelines that were released this year.
I hope to continue working with organizations such as the Lance Armstrong Foundation to further survivorship. As a future health professional, I hope to work with other physicians to begin to understand survivorship not only for cancer patients but for all diseases and address the issues surrounding their care. I am also interested in conducting research in the area of cancer survivorship and developing a community program for survivors and caregivers.