However, as those of us who are cancer survivors know, that is not necessarily true. Newer and better treatments mean we get to live through things that may have killed us before. Yet, those newer and better treatments often come at a cost – long-term complications and the possibility of negative health outcomes. I therefore seriously appreciate this article for recognizing the significance of the changing meaning of cancer survivor.
As a psychology major with an interest in coping with illness, I have read many studies that refer to cancer as a chronic illness, primarily due to the duration of cancer treatment and the complex management of treatment-related health issues required of cancer survivors.
When you finish cancer treatment, you suddenly see care providers you had seen daily or weekly only once or twice a year. While some patients are involved in survivorship clinics that help them to monitor their long-term well-being, many are lost to follow up. Additionally, it is easy to forget the importance of normal health monitoring after finishing cancer treatment. Visiting a primary care doctor, a dentist, an ophthalmologist, a gynecologist, a dermatologist, or others are all really important things to do, especially if you suffer from particular late effects from treatment. For teens and young adults, it can be really difficult to manage all these appointments and issues. I know I struggle to remember to schedule my many different appointments each year, especially now that I get ready to graduate college and am searching for jobs – thus unsure of where I will be living next year. At an age when our lives are changing so significantly, managing survivorship can be a lot to handle.
As the U.S. News article highlights, quality of life is becoming a major focus for survivorship care. While I think it is wonderful they discuss this, I believe that such a focus on quality of life in survivorship care still has a ways to go. Especially in the case of teens and young adults, addressing quality of life for survivors should also involve teaching young people how to manage their healthcare so they do not leave home or move somewhere new feeling overwhelmed and confused.
If you are a teen or young adult cancer survivor and transitioning to college or a career, I congratulate you on reaching such an awesome milestone. At the same time, I advise you to take some time to talk to your oncologist about ways to best manage your healthcare going forward. Also, the National Cancer Institute has a great set of resources related to cancer survivorship and managing your healthcare after cancer treatment, so be sure to check them out too! While it is wonderful to be done treatment, it’s really important to take care of yourself in the years to come and be prepared for any curves or bumps in the road that you may encounter :)