Monday, December 16, 2013

Surviving Cancer’s “Knock-On” Effects



I just read a thoughtful article about surviving survivorship by Laura Landro, assistant managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Her December 9th article, entitled “The Next Front in Cancer Care” is nicely summarized in the sub-head: “As More Patients Survive, Cancer Centers Handle Disease's Knock-On Effects” - http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303330204579248400281496142  

Ok, so what are “Knock-On” effects? 

Landro says “For cancer patients, getting through the rigors of treatment is the first hurdle. Then, life as a cancer survivor poses its own daunting physical and emotional challenges.”

Depressingly, she notes that these challenges are “Chemotherapy and radiation can damage vital organs such as the heart and liver, possibly causing secondary diseases years later. The body can be debilitated, cognitive functions impaired and emotions distressed, making return to normal life and work difficult. Some 70% of cancer survivors experience depression at some point. Patients have higher levels of anxiety years after the disease is cured. And there is always the chance that cancer will return.”

Arrggghhh! That’s scary. I’ve read about all the meningioma brain tumor victims panicking about their 6 month post-surgery MRI on ABTA’s Inspire website, so this feels both true and upsetting: https://www.inspire.com/groups/american-brain-tumor-association/discussion/meningioma-6-month-postoperative-mri/

Some cancer centers are starting to address this according to Landro, “A growing number of hospitals and community cancer centers, which treat the majority of the nation's cancer patients, are launching survivorship-care programs. These include treatment follow-up plans, physical rehabilitation and emotional assistance, such as counseling and support groups. They resemble programs currently offered by big urban cancer centers like MD Anderson in Houston and Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York.”

Laurence Gonzales has written an entire book on this entitled Surviving Survival, which is neatly summarized in the Amazon.com description, “You have survived the crisis—trauma, disease, accident, or war—now how do you get your life back?” And while he doesn’t focus on surviving brain cancer, I believe the emotional landscape for “getting your life back” is the same.


Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_23646158_fight-cancer-and-treatment-for-cancerous-tumors-health-care-symbol-with-a-medical-metaphor-of-hope-w.html'>lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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