James Survivorship Clinic Eases Transition to Life After Cancer
As researchers continue to make strides in treatment and prevention, the number of people cured of and living with cancer is increasing steadily, making strong survivorship support a necessary component of comprehensive care.
“There are about 16 million [survivors] in the United States today, and the number is expected to go up to more than 20 million by 2026,” says Dori Klemanski, DNP, CNP, RN, the Clinical Director of Cancer Supportive Care of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
June is National Cancer Survivors Month, an opportunity to celebrate survivors and to look at how supportive care (also called survivorship services) has grown and become more organized and multi-dimensional to improve the long-term quality of life for millions of cancer patients.
Klemanski—a leader in the rapidly-growing field of supportive care—was a nurse practitioner specializing in surgical oncology in the colorectal cancer clinic of the OSUCCC – James in the mid-2000s when she began to focus on survivorship services, volunteering to coordinate the offerings in her clinic. Nurse practitioners in other cancer specialty groups joined in, and each department began offering programs for patients, often in conjunction with JamesCare for Life.
“There really was no national model for this yet,” Klemanski says. In 2013, she was asked to coordinate these services for the OSUCCC – James and become what was then called the clinical director of survivorship.
“Doing this work really struck a chord in me. In supportive care, you see the totality and impact of cancer on patients and their families, and you realize it’s so much more than a disease,” she explains. “I became so invested in the idea of survivorship and advocating on behalf of patients—the physical and emotional aspects, the social aspects, how it impacts work, relationships, their spiritual side.”
Klemanski learned that there were peaks and valleys in the physical and emotional recoveries of patients, with the end of treatment often causing significant stress.
“They’re trying to assimilate what they just went through and who they are now,” she says. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it takes some time, and sometimes some help, to put everything into perspective.”
To ease this transition, patients at the OSUCCC – James receive cancer survivorship care plans when their treatments end. The plans include contact information for a range of healthcare providers they may need to see, signs and symptoms to look for and advice on how to maintain their health and well-being.
Patients are also provided with information on services offered by The James’ Cancer Supportive Care program, which fall into four categories:
Psychosocial Oncology: “Cancer treatment is an incredibly stressful and anxious time, and a lot of people struggle with their feelings and emotions,” Klemanski says. “We have several specialists on our team who can help while someone is in treatment and after—there’s no time limit.”
In addition to one-on-one and group counseling, Cancer Supportive Care also offers individual and group music and art therapy sessions, often in conjunction with JamesCare for Life. “I really believe strongly in JamesCare for Life, and one of my directives to our team is to give back and volunteer to lead or be part of at least two of their events a year,” Klemanski says.
Cancer Rehabilitation: Cancer treatments can take a toll on patients’ bodies. The James’ supportive care therapists help patients overcome and bounce back from the effects of operations and chemotherapy and radiation treatments to work toward “new normals” that result in the best possible quality of life.
Fertility Preservation: Cancer treatments can impact patients’ abilities to have children, and can even result in infertility. “We have fertility experts who can educate patients and arrange for their needs before, during and after their treatment,” Klemanski says.
Sexual Health: Cancer treatment can also impact patients’ sex drives, Klemanski says. “We have physicians, nurse practitioners and a sexual health therapist to help men and women deal with these issues.”
The OSUCCC – James now has one of the country’s largest cancer supportive care programs, with about 40 team members, including nurse practitioners, physicians, clinical nurses, clinical social workers and psychologists, physical, occupational and massage therapists, and a dietitian and chaplain.
“The leadership and commitment from the leaders of The James and the Comprehensive Cancer Center are so important and have allowed us to grow and better serve our patients,” says Maryam Lustberg, MD, the medical director of the program. Other key members of the Cancer Supportive Care team include: David Cohn, MD, the Chief Medical Officer of The James; William Farrar, MD, the interim CEO of The James; and Kris Kipp, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the OSUCCC – James.
“It’s so important to make sure none of our patients and former patients feel alone, and they know that we are truly with them to help them live the best possible lives they can,” Klemanski says.
Cancer Supportive Care has two clinics: The James at Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza, 2050 Kenny Road; and the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center, 1145 Olentangy Road. For more information, call 1-800-293-5066 or visit go.osu.edu/survivorshipvideo.