Background: Cancer patients disclose that when their medical treatment ends, they feel abandoned. the structure of their lives gone. Although the number of cancer survivors has been increasing over the past decades there are knowledge gaps regarding the needs of cancer survivors. The purpose of this study was to identify specific concerns of patients in the key domains of physical functioning, psychological wellbeing and social relationships.
Methods: Patients who had completed their primary cancer treatment within the previous six months self-selected to develop a self-management care plan by attending a structured program, two-hours each week for five-weeks. Patients were asked to describe the ways in which their diagnosis and treatment impacted their lives, to outline deficiencies in survivorship care and to suggest ways of addressing any unmet needs. Discussions were noted and a content analysis was subsequently conducted by the group to identify major themes. Patients set agreed goals addressing, physical functioning, psychological wellbeing and social relationships.
Results: Although the sample was too small for formal statistical testing, overall, the ten women’s’ psychological experiences of the difficulties of early survivorship indicated persistence of negative intrusive thoughts (90%) , grief reaction (80%), shock (20%), distress (70%) and for some, a dysfunctional fear of recurrence (80%). Inequalities in the economic and social determinants impacting on access to cancer survivorship care were recorded.
Conclusion: This program assisted with the transition from treatment to survivorship, and significantly increased the capacity to address this gap. It improved understanding of the specific survivorship care needs of patients related to type of cancer, or cancer treatments, age and risk profiles. The creation of a sustainable course designed on evidence-based techniques and built around a theoretical framework of positive health psychology to help enhance wellbeing and developing a self-managed survivorship care plan to assist patients in coping with the after effects of treatment and identifying needs along the survivorship trajectory is a beneficial resource, which could be implemented by other cancer centres.