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Long-Term Support for Cancer Survivors

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Long-term support for cancer survivors is not just about screening and regular check-ups. Numerous studies document both the risks and benefits from screening for all cancers. And there are many risks when a person undergoes routine cancer screening.

According to the article linked below, the group of cancer survivors will grow dramatically by the year 2040. Because your average oncologist focuses on treating the patient’s cancer, he/she is not equipped to manage possible long-term and late stage side effects of the average cancer survivor.


What are the risks and benefits of screening for cancer?

Benefits of Cancer Screening

  1. Early Detection:
    • Detecting cancer at an early stage often means that it can be treated more effectively, potentially leading to better outcomes and increased survival rates.
  2. Reduction in Mortality:
    • Some cancer screenings, such as those for breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer, have been shown to reduce mortality rates by catching the disease early.
  3. Preventive Measures:
    • Certain screenings can identify precancerous conditions (e.g., colon polyps during a colonoscopy), allowing for interventions that can prevent cancer from developing.
  4. Less Aggressive Treatment:
    • Early-stage cancers often require less aggressive treatments compared to advanced-stage cancers, which can mean fewer side effects and better quality of life.
  5. Peace of Mind:
    • Regular screening can provide reassurance to individuals who are at higher risk, knowing they are taking proactive steps to monitor their health.

Risks of Cancer Screening

  1. False Positives:
    • Screening tests can sometimes produce false positive results, indicating cancer when there is none. This can lead to unnecessary anxiety, additional tests, and potentially harmful procedures.
  2. False Negatives:
    • Conversely, false negatives can occur, where the test fails to detect cancer that is present. This can give a false sense of security and delay diagnosis and treatment.
  3. Overdiagnosis:
    • Some cancers detected by screening may never cause symptoms or become life-threatening, particularly slow-growing cancers. Overdiagnosis can lead to overtreatment, including surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy that may not have been necessary.
  4. Psychological Impact:
    • The process of screening and waiting for results can cause significant stress and anxiety, especially if the results are ambiguous or require follow-up testing.
  5. Physical Risks:
    • Some screening procedures involve physical risks. For example, a colonoscopy can sometimes cause bleeding or perforation of the colon. Mammograms involve exposure to low-dose radiation, which over time could contribute to cancer risk.
  6. Financial Costs:
    • Screening tests and follow-up procedures can be costly, which can be a burden for individuals and healthcare systems. This is particularly concerning when the benefits of screening are marginal or uncertain.
  7. Not Always Beneficial:
    • Not all screenings are beneficial for all populations. The effectiveness of screening can depend on factors such as age, family history, and specific risk factors. Screening too frequently or starting too early may not provide additional benefit and may increase risks.

I am a long-term cancer survivor. I live with a number of long-term and late stage side effects from conventional FDA approved standard-of-care, safe and effective therapies. And it is these long-term and late stage side effects from FDA approved, safe and effective therapies that can ruin a cancer survivor life.


What are some common long-term and late stage side effects of long-term cancer survivors?

Physical Side Effects

  1. Fatigue: Persistent tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest.
  2. Pain: Chronic pain in areas affected by cancer or treatment.
  3. Lymphedema: Swelling, typically in the arms or legs, often due to lymph node removal or radiation therapy.
  4. Cardiovascular Issues: Increased risk of heart disease, heart failure, and hypertension, especially after certain chemotherapy drugs or radiation therapy to the chest.
  5. Osteoporosis and Bone Health: Increased risk of fractures and bone density loss.
  6. Infertility: Reproductive issues due to chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery affecting reproductive organs.
  7. Secondary Cancers: Elevated risk of developing a different type of cancer due to previous treatments, particularly radiation therapy and some chemotherapies.
  8. Neuropathy: Nerve damage causing pain, tingling, or numbness, usually in the hands and feet.
  9. Endocrine Disorders: Hormonal imbalances, including thyroid problems or adrenal insufficiency.
  10. Cognitive Impairment: Often referred to as “chemo brain,” this includes problems with memory, attention, and executive function.

Emotional and Psychological Side Effects

  1. Depression and Anxiety: Mental health issues stemming from the cancer experience and fear of recurrence.
  2. PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder): Psychological stress and trauma related to the cancer experience.
  3. Cognitive Changes: Memory issues, difficulty concentrating, and other cognitive problems.

Social and Lifestyle Impacts

  1. Employment and Financial Issues: Challenges in returning to work and dealing with medical expenses.
  2. Social Isolation: Feelings of loneliness or isolation due to changes in lifestyle and social dynamics.
  3. Relationship Strain: Stress on personal relationships and family dynamics.

Organ-Specific Late Effects

  1. Lung Problems: Pulmonary fibrosis or reduced lung capacity due to radiation or certain chemotherapies.
  2. Kidney and Bladder Issues: Dysfunction due to specific chemotherapies or radiation.
  3. Digestive System: Chronic diarrhea, constipation, or other gastrointestinal issues.
  4. Liver Dysfunction: Due to chemotherapy or radiation.
  5. Vision and Hearing Changes: Resulting from certain treatments.

Preventive Measures and Management

  • Regular Monitoring: Routine check-ups to monitor for late effects.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol.
  • Psychosocial Support: Access to counseling, support groups, and mental health services.
  • Medication and Therapies: For managing pain, fatigue, and other symptoms.

Consider a different approach.

My conventional therapies- surgery, radiation, and chemo, ended in 1997.  Since then, my life has been focused on preventing cancer not screening for cancer. This means that I focus on:

  • Anti-cancer nutrition
  • Anti-cancer supplementation
  • Lifestyle therapies 

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against screening and regular check-ups to provide support for long-term cancer survivors. I am saying that the article linked below brings attention to the deficiencies for the support for long-term cancer survivors. I am saying to provide evidence-based support.

Are you a cancer survivor? If you would like to learn more about evidence-based, non-conventional, non-toxic cancer prevention therapies email me at David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com

Thank you,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Clinicians Face Hurdles in Caring for the Growing Number of Cancer Survivors

“By the year 2040, an estimated 26 million people will have lived ≥ 5 years after their initial cancer diagnosis, an increase of eight million from 2022, according to the National Cancer Institute. Primary care clinicians must provide long-term support for cancer survivors with new health problems that emerge as the result of previous cancer treatments and with side effects that can last for decades…

“It’s a good thing that more people are living longer and living better after cancer, but now that means we have to train an army of primary care doctors to feel empowered to take care of these patients in a general setting…”

One of the greatest barriers these clinicians face in caring for survivors is the difficulty in getting screening tests paid for by insurers…

For instance, the American Gastroenterological Association and the US Preventive Services Task Force — which many insurers use as basis for coverage determinations — offer differing recommendations…

“Who do they turn to in cases where they don’t know if it’s related to the cancer or the cancer treatment or are separate issues? Do they turn to their oncologist? Do they turn to their primary care doctor?” Yurkiewicz said. “How should I, the primary care doctor, be thinking about the issue?”

Participants also suggested establishing rapport with the treating oncologist and other specialists so that if a question arises, the primary care clinician can ask for advice.

The method physicians choose to communicate and coordinate care should be tailored to the health system in which they work, participants suggested.

“Some people have the luxury of having a unified electronic health record; some people don’t have that luxury,” said Jacob. “Recognize the institution in which you work, recognize the context in which you work, and develop a communication strategy that closes the gap…””

 

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