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Here’s Your Guide to Cancer Survivorship Programs

June 29, 2021

Dr. Andrew L. Salner
Medical Director, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at Hartford Hospital
Co-lead Cancer Institute Survivorship Work Group

The good news is that more and more people experiencing a cancer diagnosis will survive the disease and its treatment, thanks to early diagnosis and improvements in cancer therapies. Close to 14 million cancer survivors are alive today in the United States, and many will live normal life expectancies.

Survivors do, however, face selected challenges:

  • A risk of cancer recurrence, for which surveillance and lifestyle modification may be helpful.
  • An increased risk of second cancers, for which screening and lifestyle modification may help with risk reduction.
  • Long-term effects of their diagnosis and its treatment, which can threaten their well-being and quality of life.

The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute’s comprehensive survivorship program supports our patients and families through their cancer journey and beyond by providing survivorship services, education and support programs to help lower the burden of these challenges and optimize health and quality of life.

Here is a look at many of the survivorship services we offer:

1.  Survivorship Care Planning and Survivorship Visit

Following completion of your active therapy, one of our survivorship specialists can construct a survivorship care plan (SCP) that summarizes all aspect of your  cancer history and treatment. You’ll also discover active steps for disease surveillance; lifestyle modifications such as diet, weight management and physical activity to reduce recurrence risk and risk of second cancers and optimize health; screenings to monitor for other cancers; and details of potential late or long-term effects of treatment and how best to monitor for and prevent them.

The survivorship specialist will discuss resources or referrals that might be helpful, such as rehabilitation, psychological counseling and many other services. The SCP can then be discussed at the time of the survivorship visit. The SCP can be shared not only with the patient but also with the cancer team and primary care and other providers.

2. Rehabilitation

We have cancer rehabilitation specialists who focus on recovery of tissues and structures compromised by cancer and its treatment, including lymphedema care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and swallowing therapy. The goal is to optimize your journey to success in achieving personal goals.

3. Nutritional Counseling

Registered dieticians with a particular focus on cancer issues help you and your family deal with issues of diet and nutrition related to changes in taste, appetite, swallowing, mobility and GI function that may occur during cancer therapy.

4. Psychosocial Support

Our behavioral health counselors, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists can help you deal with effects of treatment, fear of recurrence, impact of your cancer journey on your life and relationships, and the many other issues that can occur during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment.

5. Physical Activity and Exercise

We have substantial evidence that regular physical activity can help reduce recurrence risk and provide psychological and physical health benefits.

6. Integrative Medicine

Our integrative medicine staff provides acupuncture, therapeutic massage, reiki therapy, nutritional counseling and naturopathic consultation to help you deal with the effects of cancer therapy.

7. Cardio-Oncology

Cancer and cardiovascular disease remain the two most common causes of mortality in the U.S. Many cancer patients experience cardiac complications as a result of their therapies. Cardiotoxicity from cancer-related therapeutics can occur during treatment or may occur several decades after the completion of treatment.

Patients may be at increased risk based on the specifics of their cancer therapy and also other risk factors such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, tobacco use, and diabetes mellitus. Cardiologists with a particular interest in, and knowledge of, cardio-oncology are available to see anyone considered at risk.

8. Genetics Counseling

As many as 10-15 percent of cancers may be hereditary. Our genetics counselors can help to determine who is at increased risk based on personal and family history, and recommend genetic testing when appropriate for you and family members.

9. Financial Counseling

The cost of cancer care and complexities of medical insurance are challenging. Our counselors can help you and your family through the journey, particularly if uninsured or underinsured.

10. Sexual Health

Many cancer therapies can affect sexual health and fertility. Our specialists can help with strategies to mitigate these effects as best as possible.

11. Support Groups

We have numerous support groups designed to help you and your family cope with your diagnosis and effects of therapy.

12. Educational Programs

We offer educational programs throughout the year dealing with a wide array of topics, including diet and nutrition, physical activity, medical innovations, psychosocial issues and late effects of therapy.  The calendar for these events is published monthly in our Survivorship Newsletter.

13. Tobacco Cessation

Counseling is available to help with tobacco cessation, as this is key to reducing risk of future cancer.

14. Survivorship Newsletter

Published monthly, our e-newsletter shares new articles by Cancer Institute physicians and staff, as well as our calendar of events. You and your family can sign up for this free e-newsletter by going here.

We are pleased that our comprehensive survivorship programs can help support you and your family. We encourage all patients to take advantage of these programs.

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute