A five-year $1.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will enable City of Hope and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to train nurses in how to care for cancer survivors. The program aims to empower nurses to identify survivors’ needs and help patients and their families achieve the best possible quality of life after cancer and its treatment.
Marcia Grant (Photo by Walter Urie)
Nearly 12 million cancer survivors currently live in the U.S., according to the NCI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numbers are expected to climb as the population ages, making better survivorship care crucial.
“Nurses will be at the center of this care,” said Marcia Grant, R.N., D.N.Sc. director and professor of the Division of Nursing Research and Education at City of Hope, who is co-principal investigator with Mary McCabe, R.N. M.N., director of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Cancer Survivorship Program.
Nurses understand their important role, McCabe said. “They want and need education to give survivors the tools for a full life after cancer.”
The training will help nurses identify issues affecting cancer survivors, Grant said. Nurses will learn about the importance of treatment summaries and care plans for patients as they finish their treatment so that survivors understand how to get the right care. They also will learn about available community resources that can improve survivors’ quality of care.
“The way nurses implement survivorship will be different because their resources are different,” said Grant. “A larger center will have more of an infrastructure enabling nurses to follow patients in a data-based environment. But the average community oncologist doesn’t have those resources, so the treatment summary and care plan will be critical to have nurses and doctors go over what they should do for follow-up care.”
The workshops will focus on preventing new cancers through healthy lifestyles, determining when survivors should have tests such as colonoscopies and mammograms and following up on short- and long-term side effects that may arise, as well as communication.
City of Hope provides survivorship programs for patients with prostate cancer and breast cancer, as well as for pediatric cancer patients. The pediatric program was instrumental in the development of the first consensus guidelines for pediatric cancer survivors, which were created by the Children’s Oncology Group.
“Pediatric cancer patients are usually treated in cancer centers, but about 85 percent of adult patients are treated in the community,” Grant said. “Kids have been followed up for years, but that has not happened with adults. Given the expanding number of cancer survivors — especially during the past decade — patients should know what they need to do for prevention, surveillance and intervention.”
Nurses will apply for the training program through a competitive selection process. Participants must have specific goals and will provide follow-up information at six, 12 and 18 months after the course.
The annual training workshops will be held in Los Angeles and New York. They will include nurses from all cancer health-care settings, including physician practices, small community cancer clinics and NCI-designated cancer centers. The program will train 200 nurses over four years, with each workshop limited to 50 participants to allow for intensive, interactive education.
Curriculum is designed around essential elements of survivorship care identified through an influential 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine that called for more comprehensive follow up for cancer patients after treatment.