Wake Forest Baptist Health to Launch Cancer Survivorship Clinic
Progress in the fight against cancer has produced a need: survivorship care.
Since the 1970s, the number of cancer survivors has tripled and today includes one of every 20 American adults. One in five people will be affected by cancer in some way. Physical and emotional changes brought on by cancer or its treatment can affect patients and families for years.
To answer this need, Wake Forest Baptist Health is establishing a Cancer Survivorship Clinic at its Comprehensive Cancer Center to support all patients, families and caregivers as they plan for life after cancer.
Stacy Wentworth, MD, assistant professor of Radiation Oncology and the clinic’s medical director, describes survivorship as an acknowledgment of the needs that follow cancer treatment. Care teams do a good job of navigating patients through treatment, she says, but are less successful with what follows it.
“For patients, it’s like they’re on this train of diagnosis and treatment,” Wentworth says. “Then that train screeches to a halt. The patients step off, the train moves on and we as providers pick up the next patient. Patients and their family members are left wondering ‘What’s next? What am I going to do? How are they going to monitor me through follow-up treatment? Is cancer going to come back?’”
The clinic, its staff and resources are designed to help. Clinic staff will monitor medical needs and more, offering support for a wide range of quality-of-life issues and concerns such as fear of cancer recurrence, return to wellness and financial burden.
The process begins with an orientation visit, where survivors meet with a clinic physician with expertise in survivorship issues and cancer care. Survivors will receive a comprehensive, personalized care plan that includes a summary of cancer treatment pre-survivorship, recommendations for follow-up care, and strategies for coping and for promoting health.
The clinic—believed to be the first of its kind—is based on already successful models in breast, lymphoma and other areas.
“Cancer survivors already receive care at Wake Forest Baptist Health including in our already robust Bone Marrow Transplant Survivorship Program or Clemmons-based Breast Cancer Survivorship program.” Wentworth says. “What we haven’t done up to now is to identify this as a transition period for all of our patients. Similar to the transition from their life before cancer, this is now life in the aftermath of cancer. That’s really an innovative idea.”
Providing the clinic for survivors also should help other cancer patients who need care.
“We’re having a hard time getting new patients into our providers’ schedules because they have so many survivors they are seeing,” Wentworth says. “We’re trying to open up some of those spaces for new patients while also providing survivors with a safe place and enhanced services. They’ll get more from survivorship than they will from their provider.”
The clinic team is expected to begin seeing cancer survivors this summer with a larger opening planned for the fall. It will be located on the second floor of the Comprehensive Cancer Center near the Cancer Patient Support Program offices.
The clinic will be set up intentionally to not resemble a typical cancer clinic, so patients won’t feel as if it’s just another doctor’s visit. The plan is to offer half-days for survivors of specific cancers to more effectively group resources that those survivors need.
“We are pledging that every survivor will have an orientation visit, and they’re going to be cared for by people they recognize from their care team,” Wentworth says.
“We are planting the flag and saying, we are offering survivorship. Our goal is to offer survivorship for every cancer survivor because they deserve that level of care.”
To learn more about the Cancer Survivorship Clinic, please contact Kathy Flowers, MBA, BSN, RN, 336-713-6568 or [email protected].
To honor the survivor in your life by making a philanthropic contribution to support the clinic please contact Allison Brouillette, 336-716-2275 or [email protected].
Cancer Survivorship Clinic at Wake Forest Baptist Health
The clinic will help survivors transition to wellness by providing support services and care that includes:
- A dedicated team that provides regular physical exams with a deep understanding of the survivor’s recent medical history.
- Monitoring for early detection of new or returning cancers.
- Managing side effects related to cancer and treatment.
- Lifestyle coaching and tips to help reduce cancer risk.
- Information about community resources, psychosocial care and integrative care.