Cure no quick fix for cancer survivors on long road to recovery

ings about their experience as a way to reduce stress and alleviate related symptoms.

The bottom line? "Cure is not the end of the journey," Wingard said. "Survivors continue to travel down the road revisiting some of the experiences they had perhaps months, even years, later. It's important for all of us as family members and friends to be aware of that and to be supportive of individuals who have undergone very traumatic experiences involving their health. Long after a cure is achieved, there may be issues, including stress and depression, that may linger and that still require medical attention."

Despite the vast resources applied in pursuit of a biologic cure -- the elimination of cancer -- much less attention has been devoted to survivorship issues, including ways to help people resume their lives after successful cancer treatment, said Stephanie Lee, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Institute in Boston. Physicians have routinely monitored their patients for disease recurrence, she said, but studies suggest they are less skilled at identifying and dealing with late physical complications and emotional or adjustment difficulties.

"The ultimate goal should not only be eradication of cancer, but doing so in a way that leaves no physical, emotional or social complications behind, or at least minimizes them," Lee said. "Dr. Wingard's research confirms what many cancer survivors say: A brush with death may enhance appreciation for life by helping people figure out what is truly important. But this greater appreciation for life may also act as a barrier, or a subtle disincentive, to looking for ways to improve deficits in quality of life. Recognition of these deficits is the first step toward trying to improve things."


Contact: Melanie Ross
University of Florida

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