On January 15, the American Society of Clinical Oncologists hosted the inaugural Survivorship Symposium in San Francisco. More than 800 doctors from numerous disciplines, researchers, patients and patient advocates gathered for the event focused on advancing cancer survivorship care issues. I recently wrote a joint article for Breast Cancer Social Media Community about the 2016 ASCO Survivorship Symposium with Stacey Tinianov, a breast cancer survivor and patient advocate.

Personalized Care for Cancer Survivors

One theme at the 2016 ASCO Survivorship Symposium was “One Size Fits No One.” There are more than 14 million cancer survivors in the United States and their needs vary. Several presentations revolved around the need for a personalized approach to care for survivors.

Mary McCabe, RN, Director of the Cancer Survivorship Initiative at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, discussed individual diversity among cancer survivors. Many survivorship plans consist of a treatment summary and surveillance plan. Survivorship plans should also include assessment of risk for recurrence or other cancers, according to McCabe. They should also include information regarding resources for medical and psychosocial needs.

In another presentation, Diane Heditsian, Founder and CEO of deClarity, talked about her experience as a cancer survivor. “I was not given any type of survivorship plan,” she said. Heditsian proposed a 12-week program to help patients rehabilitate following active treatment.

Testing Patient or Talk to Patients?

In another theme at the 2016 ASCO Survivorship Symposium, several presenters discussed ‘Talk Therapy vs. Test Therapy.’ Patricia Ganz, MD, a professor at Fielding School of Public Health and avid Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, discussed this concept in a discussion the tendency to test cancer survivors during educating and engaging them in long-term follow-up care.

This concept was prominent in several presentations. Many of these focused on current guidelines for risk management and surveillance in both average and high-risk patients. In many instances, cancer survivors may be especially vulnerable to potential harms, which requires careful consideration when making management recommendations.

Is Cancer Survivorship a Chronic Condition?

Many cancer survivors have complex, long-term medical needs. Belinda Vail, MD, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, discussed survivorship as a chronic disease. As some patients have consistently struggle with chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, cancer survivors consistently struggle with side effects to treatment, recurrence, secondary cancers and trauma.

At the 2016 ASCO Survivorship Symposium, discussion of cancer survivorship as a chronic condition often focused on quality of life issues. Clinicians need to focus on these issues and talk with their patients about lifestyle changes that reduce risk for recurrence and improve quality of life. “We owe it to the survivors,” Heditsian said. “The life saved is a life worth living.”

Breastlink Research at the 2016 ASCO Survivorship Symposium

Breastlink played an active role in the discussion of survivorship at the event. We presented a poster summarizing results from a recent Breastlink study on the impact of multi-gene panel testing for cancer survivors.

In this study, we looked at changes in management recommendations for breast cancer survivors following multi-gene panel testing after negative BRCA1/2 results. Multi-gene panel testing evaluates up to 43 non-BRCA1/2 genes for pathogenic mutations linked to cancer risk. We determined that multi-gene panel testing results often detected non-BRCA1/2 mutations and that these results often influenced screening and treatment decisions.

Overall, participating in the 2016 ASCO Survivorship Symposium was a wonderful experience for me. While many topics of interest were covered this year, there are many that I would like to see discussed in the future. These include issues of palliative care, living with metastatic disease, sexual side effects, lymphedema and caregiver/family support.

At Breastlink, we are consistently trying to improve our approach to breast cancer care and these types of events help us to identify issues of importance to cancer survivors. We are committed to providing compassionate, comprehensive care from diagnosis through treatment and survivorship. We hope that Breastlink can continue to improve upon and influence others to adopt strategies for providing care to survivors.

To read the complete article authored by myself and Stacey Tinianov, please visit bcsmcommunity.org.