Office of Cancer Survivorship Helps Patients Deal with Life After Cancer
It was with the knowledge that more and more people are surviving cancer that the National Cancer Institute established the Office of Cancer Survivorship.
Schmalfeldt: Because of advances in the treatment of cancer, diagnosis of the disease is less likely to be considered a "death sentence" — instead, being diagnosed with some forms of cancer is more like a "life sentence" — meaning, you have a chronic, but treatable disease. It was with the knowledge that more and more people are surviving cancer that the National Cancer Institute established the Office of Cancer Survivorship. It's Director, Dr. Julia Rowland, talked about the idea behind the OCS.
Rowland: Well, the office was actually started back in 1996 in direct response to compelling and articulate response out of the advocacy community saying "it's wonderful you have all these advances, the earlier detection, the better treatments, more supportive care, and that people are living long term with this illness, but what we don't know is to what you are returning individuals, what are the kinds of problems that individuals face after treatment, and what are you doing about that?" Essentially, it was a challenge back to the NCI to say "congratulations on your success, but you need to be cognizant that cancer cures and care come with a cost."
Schmalfeldt: Dr. Rowland talked about some of the exciting research being done at the OCS.
Rowland: I think some of the exciting things we're beginning to look at, partly it goes back to the mission of the office, which is "tell us a little bit more about what happens to individuals post treatment". So, what has happened in the past 10 years since the office was created is that the medical community now recognizes that cancer survivorship — that post treatment period is an area of unique issues in and of itself. And that's very exciting because it has placed this solidly in the area of what we sometimes refer to as the "cancer control continuum." It has its own unique issues and there are researchers and clinicians who are addressing specifically that particular piece of recovery and wellness. What's been very exciting is as we listen to the voice of survivors is recognizing we need to attend to their health behaviors after cancer. Interestingly, some relatively simple things — recommendations to stay physically active after your cancer diagnosis — may have important impact on disease recurrence and possibly long-term survival. So those kind of findings are very provocative, very exciting, because this is something everybody could do.
Schmalfeldt: For more information about the Office of Cancer Survivorship, log on to www.survivorship.cancer.gov. Our entire interview with Dr. Rowland will be available on the June 29th edition of the NIH Podcast, "NIH Research Radio" which you can find online on the NIH.gov homepage — just click the "Podcasting" link on the lower right hand corner of the page. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, MD.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Julia Rowland