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Living Beyond Cancer


L-R: Capital Health Cancer Care Program Team Members (Standing) Janice Spencer, Social Worker, Joy Tarasuk. Health Services Manager, Karen Woodworth, Case Management Coordinator, (Seated) Leslie MacLean, Project Manager, Terra Peers, Registered Nurse

More people are living beyond cancer than ever before. It’s great news for anyone who has or will be diagnosed with the disease, but hearing the words, “Congratulations! Your cancer treatment is finished, raises other uncertainties such as, worry about the cancer coming back; how to stay healthy; and coping with the side effects that may remain after treatment is finished. The increasing number of cancer survivors also places additional demand on cancer specialists for follow-up care. This has prompted discussions about who and how best to provide routine follow-up.

“Research has shown that support and routine follow-up care for certain kinds of cancers can be effectively provided by family physicians and other primary care providers,” says Marianne Arab, Manager of Supportive Care, CCNS.

Family physicians say, with the right supports, they are happy to provide follow-up to patients after their cancer treatment is complete. These supports include: understanding the specifics of their patient’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, having information about the kind and frequency of tests recommended to ensure that a recurrence or new cancer is identified as soon as possible; easier access to specialized testing, such as colonoscopies, when warranted; improved access to cancer specialists when they have a question; and a streamlined approach to enable re-referral of a patient back to a cancer centre when necessary.

Cancer Care Nova Scotia, in partnership with the Cape Breton Cancer Centre and the Capital Health Cancer Care Program, has begun to address these issues to support family physicians and other primary care providers in providing quality follow-up care to cancer survivors. Follow-up care plans, which are patient specific, are an important aspect of follow-up care. These plans are intended as a step-by-step guide for both the patient and the primary care provider. They include things such as routine testing needed, the frequency of such tests, reminders about other cancer screening tests, and healthy lifestyle information such as the value of physical activity, being a non-smoker and following good nutrition habits. Patients will receive similar information to empower them in being more involved and in control of their follow-up care.

In Capital Health, the first patient education session, designed to support patients who have just completed treatment, occured in Halifax on September 24th. “Living Beyond Cancer” focuses on life after cancer treatment. Presented by staff at the Capital Health Cancer Care Program, patients learn about follow-up care, the short- and long-term side effects of cancer treatment, the importance of physical activity and nutrition, coping skills, spirituality, sexual concerns, as well as available community services and supports. The group education session also provides an opportunity for individuals to meet other cancer survivors and to ask the cancer team questions.

For more information about Living Beyond Cancer including when the next session will be held in Halifax, call 473-6567 and press 2. Similar sessions will be held at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre. For more information, call 902-567-7864.


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