According to the National Cancer Institute, there are more than 11 million cancer survivors in the United States today. The term "survivor" can be defined in different ways:
- Having no disease after diagnosis or the completion of treatment.
- The process of living with, through, and beyond cancer. By this definition, cancer survivorship begins at diagnosis.
As a cancer survivor, it's important that you keep certain information about your disease and treatment, because it may be helpful to other healthcare providers years later. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has online tools to help you fill out a survivorship plan that details your treatment summary. These forms are meant to give basic information about your cancer treatment and follow-up care to future healthcare providers.
If you'd rather gather survivorship information on your own, be sure to collect:
- A copy of diagnostic tests (i.e. CT or PET scans) that have been performed.
- Your biopsy pathology reports.
- A copy of your operative report and your final pathology report. (These can be obtained from the hospital or surgeon's office.)
- A summary of chemotherapy or hormonal agents you received. (Ask your medical oncologist for a copy of your chemotherapy treatment summary.)
- A summary of your radiation treatments. (Ask your radiation therapy department for a copy of the final treatment summary.)
Survivorship also includes what to expect after treatment is complete. You'll want to talk to your healthcare provider about short-term effects, long-term effects and late effects of your treatment. Most healthcare providers will talk to you about recommendations for monitoring for recurring or new cancers. Make sure you understand your plan of care and who will be following your care.
Always remember that continuing a healthy lifestyle is an important part of survivorship. Ask your healthcare provider about personal recommendations for nutrition, healthy weight, exercise, smoking cessation and/or rehabilitation. It's critical to speak with your healthcare provider about recommendations for continued cancer screenings for colon, prostate, breast and cervical cancers.