March 27, 2009

New clinic geared to cancer survivors

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Tracy Johnson, F.N.P., unpacks resource material in the new Cancer Survivorship Program clinic, located in the Village at Vanderbilt. Kim Drake, Anne Washburn and Kristin Campbell unpack in the background. (photo by Dana Johnson)

New clinic geared to cancer survivors

In years past, a cancer diagnosis often was a death sentence, but today there are more than 11 million cancer survivors.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, in conjunction with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, is opening a special clinic to serve those cancer survivors.

The REACH for Survivorship Program offers counseling and medical services to both pediatric and adult cancer survivors.

The new Survivorship Clinic is slated to open March 30 in the Village at Vanderbilt, and is open to all patients — regardless of where they received their cancer care.

“The goal of the Survivorship Clinic is to provide dedicated care focused on the unique needs of cancer survivors,” said Debra Friedman, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and leader of the Cancer Control and Prevention Program.

Debra Friedman, M.D.

Debra Friedman, M.D.

“Unfortunately, cancer survivors are at high risk for medical problems from their initial cancer, or as a result of side effects from cancer treatments,” said Friedman, E. Bronson Ingram Chair in Pediatric Oncology.

“They need to be educated about their risks, they need to know if they should have specific cancer screening tests or other special monitoring to stay healthy, and their care providers need to know what to look for during checkups. The whole concept of this program is to create a bridge from their oncology care back to primary care.”

Patients will fill out a detailed survey and send in their medical records prior to the clinic visit. Then they meet with a physician or nurse practitioner for a physical exam, a review of their medical history and a discussion about their future health risks and recommendations about ways to stay healthy.

They will be sent for lab tests or referred to medical specialists, if needed. Each patient will leave the visit with an individualized survivorship care plan, including a notebook with educational information and resources for future care needs.

This comprehensive clinic visit is covered by most insurance carriers.

“We put this all together in a coordinated package so they understand what it means to adjust to a new “normal” after cancer,” said Friedman. “They get a realistic understanding of what their recovery will look like.”

Only a handful of medical centers in the United States have dedicated survivorship programs for both pediatric and adult cancer patients, and Friedman said Vanderbilt's new clinic is the only program in the country that will provide care in a coordinated fashion for both children and adults who have received their cancer care anywhere.

“We are happy to see any cancer survivor, no matter where they were treated. This is very much a community program.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to give back to the community with this new resource for cancer patients,” said Anne Washburn, associate director of Patient and Community Education.

“As our team networks with other cancer-related groups, we're happy to let them know that survivors now have another support program for their medical and psychosocial needs.”

The REACH for Survivorship Program already has plans for expansion. In April, a satellite survivorship clinic for adults will open at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry.
For more information call 343-7400 or e-mail