Selecting tumour streams for a Survivorship Pilot Project raised the question, are some cancer survivors more forgotten than others? Whilst some tumour groups such as breast and prostate patients have received an increasing profile and services, are head and neck cancer patients and survivors missing out?
Barwon Health’s Andrew Love Cancer Centre in Geelong Victoria, is the single radiation treatment centre for the Barwon and South Western region in Victoria. The population is demographically diverse, has a higher than average 50+ age bracket and includes city, rural and sea side communities.
During 2011, 73 curative courses of radiation therapy were delivered by Andrew Love Cancer Centre to patients with head and neck tumours. With improvements in treatment technology the number of patients living with the impact of radiation and chemotherapy is growing. In 2010 head and neck patients made up just 2% of patients diagnosed with cancers in the region, however the level of complexity of medical and psychosocial needs for survivors is high. Sometimes considered more challenging because of lower socio economic levels, substance abuse and low health literacy, the project team received varied responses from professionals after choosing this survivor group.
The project aimed to trial a Nurse Led Survivorship Clinic and patients were provided with a written Survivorship Care Plan. Guidelines to enhance co-ordinated care and communication between patients, cancer specialists and GPs were implemented and aligned to GP Management Care Plans. Assessment of patients medical and psychosocial risk enabled identification of high risk patients who were provided with more supportive follow up.
Evaluation of health literacy, health education, quality of life and acceptance were conducted, and preliminary results will be discussed.