It’s normal to feel unsure and unsettled when your active treatment programme comes to an end and the ‘security blanket’ of your ever-present medical team is no longer a daily fixture. Now, your oncology care physician takes centre stage.
“Oncology care physicians are doctors who are trained to care for cancer survivors, and as such form an important part of your cancer management team,” explains Dr Inge Kriel – who does this sort of work every day. “The value of oncology care physicians has been recognised internationally, with South Africa recently starting to appreciate the potential for improvement in patient care through these medical professionals. The improvement in screening and treatment of cancers is resulting in an increasing number of cancer survivors today. So, the concept of ‘Survivorship’ and how to provide specialised care to people in remission, is now acknowledged as an essential part of every cancer journey, with your oncology care physician perfectly poised to assist at every single stage”.
Being given the all-clear or finding yourself in remission comes with its own anxieties, and learning how to adjust and cope with this brand new version of you naturally raises a myriad questions.
And, this is where your oncology care physician now takes centre stage, guiding you, the cancer survivor, through the difficulties and challenges that every cancer diagnosis brings.
- Where to now?
- What do I need to do to reduce my risk of the cancer returning?
- What do I need to eat?
- Which supplements should I take and which should I avoid?
- What symptoms of recurrence do I need to look out for?
All of these are common cancer survivor concerns and just as you needed answers to all your questions when you were first diagnosed, you need answers here too.
Having, in all likelihood, been part of your multidisciplinary team from day one and quite possibly the first contact you had with a doctor before you were referred to a specialist for further treatment, your oncology care physician is your go-to person for everything you require right now.
How does your oncology care physician help?
According to Dr Kriel, cancer patients often report feeling lost and confused after having gone through the tornado of active cancer treatment and oncology care physicians are there to help you find your way. “We are not only experienced in managing chronic general medical conditions, such as those given for high blood pressure and diabetes, but we are also able to provide the specialised care that every cancer survivor needs. Cancers tend to be more prevalent in the ageing population and it’s also this population that has the highest burden of chronic medical conditions. We are able to recognise how cancer and chronic medical conditions influence each other, and we are therefore able to provide comprehensive care to these patients, thereby improving their quality of life significantly”.
The core areas focused on by your oncology care physician include:
- Answering all of your questions about ‘what’s next?’
- Helping you to find your ‘new normal’ and to re-adjust to life after cancer
- Monitoring you closely for any cancer recurrence, as well as screening for the development of new cancers which may arise as a result of your cancer treatment or due to inherited conditions
- Identifying and managing late and long-term side effects of your cancer and cancer treatment
- Encouraging your general wellbeing through following a healthy lifestyle
- Coordinating care with other cancer specialists to ensure that you receive the highest standard of care
- Recognising the profound effect that a cancer diagnosis has had on your social, emotional and financial wellbeing, as well as the effect on those closest to you, and guiding you through this.
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