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Carene's Wellness Corner
Surviving Cancer: Getting help every step of the way

A cancer survivor is someone with any type of cancer, either past or present. It's life after cancer that can vary widely depending on the type of cancer, treatment, stage of disease and other factors.

"Survivorship is a unique journey for each patient. Some people feel that they gain strength and perspective, some suffer from long-term side effects of treatment, and some have considerable anxiety about cancer recurrence," says Megan Gaynor Charette, RN, NP, with theWomen & Infants Hospital Breast Health Center.

Breast cancer gave Pam, 47, who was diagnosed in 2006, a different approach to life.

"I don't take anything for granted," says the Coventry woman who is in remission. "I don't get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle; instead, I have a more laid back outlook on life. I stop and smell the flowers more; I listen to the birds sing." Surviving Cancer

Gaynor Charette says the length of recovery varies tremendously. "It can take months or even years to recover from surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy," she says. "Long-term side effects can also last months to years, and, in some cases, be permanent. Some side effects may not show up for years after treatment."

Help is here
In October 2012, The Breast Health Center opened a Survivorship Clinic as a new resource for addressing the journey of survival. "The clinic empowers cancer survivors to protect and enhance their quality of life and health going forward," says Gaynor Charette, who leads the clinic. "Our goal is to help each patient accept and thrive in their new 'normal' life.

"The most common concern among these patients is risk of cancer recurrence," she says. "Physical concerns include being over or under weight, bone health, fatigue, and memory changes."

The clinic stresses the importance of healthy lifestyle choices including diet, exercise, and stress management. In addition, it offers many support groups, ranging from one-on-one consultations with social workers to art therapy.

Other goals of the clinic include to:

  • Provide patients with a complete treatment summary including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and endocrine therapy
  • Identify, prevent, and control possible long-term and late side effects of treatment
  • Monitor for cancer recurrence
  • Provide screening recommendations for other cancers
  • Recommend follow-up care with providers after completion of active treatment
  • Ease the transition of care back to primary care providers
  • Prescribe medication management for anxiety and depression, if needed

Currently, the Survivorship Clinic offers a one-time visit with a nurse practitioner. Patients meet with a social worker at the end of their visit to assess their psychosocial needs. Appointments with a dietitian as well as genetic counselors are available.

Pam used several of the Breast Health Center's services, including counseling, art therapy, group therapy, and nutrition counseling. After getting genetic testing, she learned it was very unlikely that she would get breast cancer again, which helped put any anxieties about recurrence to rest.

 

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