With 15.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. and an anticipated 20 million by 2026, programs designed to support them—commonly known as survivorship programs — have become more prevalent and robust. These programs attend to the wide range of healthcare needs — everything from preventing the recurrence of cancer to counseling survivors on physical activity. And with advances in treatment that enable many survivors to live longer and with greater quality of life, it becomes more important to ensure that these programs can effectively meet their long-term health care needs.
So, Dr. Michael T. Halpern, associate professor of health services administration and policy, asked an important question: How do we know how well these programs work?
In a paper just published in The Lancet Oncology, Halpern and co-author Dr. Keith E. Argenbright of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center reported that while survivorship programs do well at tracking survivors’ self-reported health status, symptoms, and knowledge of their disease, there are more questions when it comes to the effectiveness of the programs themselves.
“More comprehensive and high-quality evaluations of survivorship programs are needed,” Dr. Halpern writes. Developing common evaluation measures, he explains, will help administrators to identify best practices and design better programs. With so much variation in the programs that were studied, it’s still too soon to tell what components make for a successful survivorship program. Some factors may include program structure, long-term patient outcomes, costs, and services around survivors’ social, nutritional, fitness, and fertility needs. The most commonly used evaluation measures don’t ask about these things.
“This type of evaluation is essential to develop the survivorship care evidence base and identify characteristics of programs tailored to each survivor that can provide the best outcomes,” Halpern says.
Full article available at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045%2816%2930563-0/fulltext.