What is cancer survivorship?

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it can impact nearly every aspect of your life. While the disease can affect your mental, emotional and physical health, it’s important to learn how to navigate the changes that cancer brings to your overall quality of life.

Cancer survivorship refers to how a person with cancer handles the changes and challenges that are brought on by a diagnosis. It’s essentially the journey that a person takes after they go through treatment and look forward to the future. Cancer survivorship involves a variety of lifestyle changes, prevention and outpatient treatment actions to decrease the risk of recurrence and improve a survivor’s overall health and wellness.

What’s involved in cancer survivorship?

A person is referred to as a cancer survivor if they are diagnosed with the disease, regardless of where they are in their treatment or remission journey. There are more than 18 million cancer survivors in the U.S., which adds up to more than 5% of the country’s population. 

Cancer survivorship is the chapter of a person’s life after treatment, and it involves a wide variety of components that impact a survivor’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being. By making sure that every aspect of cancer survivorship is given the required effort and care, the survivor can continue improving their quality of life and look forward to the future. Read on to learn more about what those aspects look like.

Physical wellness

Cancer is a disease that can occur nearly anywhere in the body and impact the function of your systems. Not only does the disease impact your physical health, but so does the treatment that you go through to get rid of it. Chemotherapy and radiation, the two most common cancer treatments, can take a toll on the body, including nausea, fatigue and weakness. That’s why physical wellness is essential for cancer survivorship.

There are many aspects of physical wellness that a cancer survivor should prioritize after treatment. Effective physical wellness not only helps alleviate the side effects of cancer treatment, but it also helps restore your mobility, boost your immune system and improve your mental health.

Physical wellness for cancer survivorship includes:

  • Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Sexual wellness
  • Reducing or eliminating bad habits, such as smoking or drinking excessively

Goal setting

Cancer treatment is an extremely difficult and distressing process that can make it difficult to stay optimistic about the future. But there is hope. Cancer survivors are tenacious, strong and have much to look forward to in their road ahead.

Goal setting for cancer survivors focuses on short- and long-term goals that can keep you pushing forward when you’re struggling with your mental, emotional and physical health after treatment. It’s about making the most of life after cancer and recognizing that having had cancer doesn’t have to dictate your future. This part of cancer survivorship can include setting goals like returning to work, giving back to the community and improving your interpersonal relationships.

Goals for cancer survivorship should:

  • Alleviate depression
  • Inspire hope
  • Be attainable and realistic

Stress management

There are many aspects of cancer treatment that can put a lot of stress on the survivor. It can stem from everything from worrying about the effectiveness of the treatment to financial strain due to medical bills. Stress management techniques are essential; they can reduce the anxiety that is prevalent in nearly 18% of cancer survivors. 

Healthcare providers will often recommend mindfulness and meditation for stress management in cancer survivors, though it can look different for everyone. Stress management during cancer survivorship can involve:

  • Developing coping strategies for uncertainty or worry about the cancer returning
  • Increasing self-care
  • Spending time with loved ones

Long-term management

One of the most important parts of cancer survivorship is taking the proper steps to reduce the likelihood of the cancer returning and being proactive if it does. Surveillance and early detection are often the priorities for follow-up care.

After treatment is complete, the doctors will lay out what to expect afterward. You’ll be expected to return for a check-in every three or four months for the next couple of years; then the appointments will likely be set annually or biannually. Long-term management involves:

  • Management of treatment side effects
  • Screenings for recurrence or other cancers
  • Attending follow-up appointments
  • Outpatient treatment when necessary 

Ability KC will be by your side throughout cancer survivorship

If you’re a cancer survivor, or you have a loved one who has completed treatment, the importance of effective cancer survivorship cannot be overstated. At Ability KC, our outpatient rehabilitation program can help survivors restore their mobility and improve their overall health and wellness for the future as they work toward remission.

Ability KC is a designated Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility (CORF) with a Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.