Survivor Care Plans Lead to Higher Follow-Up Care Retention Rates

Survivor care plans are beneficial to survivors of cancer in terms of receiving cancer-related follow-up care, a recent study found.

For both adult survivors of cancer and survivors of childhood cancer, survivor care plans (SCP) have been shown to be beneficial, as more survivors are inclined to attend cancer-related follow-up care visits and have better overall quality of life, according to a findings from a recent study published in the journal, Cancer.

According to two previous studies from Lancet and “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition,” a book from National Academies Press, SCPs provide survivors with information such as their cancer history and their risk of developing late effects in the future. These plans also offer a schedule of recommended check-ups and treatment for late effects such as bone-modifying agents for potential risk of osteoporosis (decrease in the amount and thickness of bone tissue) or steroid replacement therapy for insufficiencies in the adrenal glands (located atop the kidneys that produce hormones to regulate essential functions such as blood pressure).

In the respective study, there was a total of 1,123 participants, all who were survivors of cancer and were in remission. There were 499 participants in the study who were adult survivors and 402 participants who were survivors of childhood cancer. The authors of the study also included participants who were currently child survivors but recruited their parents to complete the necessary surveys for children younger than age 16.

Adult survivors of cancer had an average age of 62.4 years in the study, whereas the average age for survivors of childhood cancer was 21.3 years. The study authors found that the most common cancer types among the survivors in the study included breast cancer in adults and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in childhood survivors of cancer.

From the total participants in the study, “only 10.7% of survivors of adult cancer and 22.0% of survivors of childhood cancer reported having received an SCP,” the study authors wrote.

Regarding survivors who attended cancer-related follow-up care visits, the authors noted that 75.8% of the adult survivors in the study visited their oncologist and 66.8% visited their general practitioner. Furthermore, the authors determined that more than half of the survivors of childhood cancer attended a specialized long-term follow-up clinic and half visited their general practitioner for cancer-related follow-up care.

For survivors with SCPs, the study authors found that some survivors reported that they did not receive reminders to attend cancer-related follow-up care visits, which included 12.3% for adult survivors and 39.5% for childhood survivors.

The authors of the study also identified the propensity of attending cancer-related follow-up care visits.

“Survivors of adult cancer who received an SCP were significantly more likely to report having visited their general practitioner for cancer-related follow-up care than nonrecipients,” the authors wrote. “Survivors of childhood cancer who received an SCP, as compared to nonrecipients, were more likely to attend cancer-related follow-up care appointments at least annually and attend a long-term follow-up clinic.” It was also noted in the study that survivors of childhood cancer who received SCPs were less likely to claim that they do not receive reminders to attend follow-up visits.

Quality of life was another aspect that the authors analyzed within the study. They found that “SCP (recipients) predicted a greater global quality of life for survivors of adult cancer, health-related quality of life for survivors of childhood cancer as proxy-reported by parents, and satisfaction with cancer-related follow-up care for survivors of childhood cancer and parents.”

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