New Program Helps Breast Cancer Survivors Succeed
Personalized care targets unique needs of survivors.
Breast cancer. A diagnosis of those two words elicits an array of emotions ranging from fear and anger, to confusion and uncertainty. To cope, women often look to family, friends and survivors for support, forming a network of people to help guide them through their diagnosis and treatment. As treatment begins, the plan seems clear. Separate stages of therapy are compartmentalized, helping the patient understand each step, and all work towards one common goal – getting rid of the cancer. Unfortunately, the process post-treatment is not as clear. While relieved to be cancer-free, survivors are no longer coached by an army of medical professionals and often find themselves feeling isolated, overwhelmed and unsure of how to navigate their new role as a survivor.
To address the problem and target the unique physical and emotional challenges breast cancer survivors face, physicians at Northwestern Memorial Hospital have launched an innovative new program focused on survivorship, known as SUCCEED.
The Breast Cancer Survivor Comprehensive Care, Empowerment and Education (SUCCEED) program in the Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center at Prentice Women’s Hospital provides Chicago-area survivors with personalized, comprehensive care during and after cancer treatment. From day one, a multidisciplinary team of health professionals, including physicians, nutritionists, exercise therapists and psychologists, work together to treat and support breast cancer survivors by addressing their unique needs, ranging from hot flashes and osteoporosis, to depression and weight gain.
“Breast cancer survivors have unique needs as they embark on their survivorship journey,” says Vincent Cryns, MD, director of the SUCCEED program and an endocrinologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The goal of SUCCEED is to empower and educate women to take an active role in making important decisions that impact their overall health and well-being. Nutrition, exercise and healthy living are key components of the program, which we think every patient can easily adopt with a personalized plan.”
The SUCCEED program provides two key elements to every patient – a treatment summary outlining all aspects of her breast cancer, and a personalized care plan that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of possible after-effects associated with breast cancer therapy, as well as psychosocial and wellness concerns, and strategies for healthy living. Together with their physicians, patients then develop a survivorship care plan which provides a detailed digest of the breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, follow-up appointments and any specific testing or intervention that might be needed.
A 2005 Institute of Medicine report titled “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition,” created an awareness of the gap in cancer care models and opened the door for updated programs like SUCCEED that focus on cancer survivorship.
“Within the last five years, healthcare providers have begun to address the lack of post-treatment plans for breast cancer patients that exist in the current health care system,” adds Dr. Cryns, who is also associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a breast cancer researcher at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Breast cancer survivorship programs are not intended to replace the care women receive from their oncologists or primary care physicians, but rather to complement their existing care and bring the pieces together. These women go through cancer treatment for a relatively brief period of time, but they are breast cancer survivors for the rest of their lives.”
Open to all breast cancer survivors regardless of where treatment takes place, the program is covered by insurance and dietary and exercise treatment is provided free of charge thanks to philanthropy support from the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and other sources. For more information about SUCCEED, visit www.succeedprogram.org.