New Survivorship Care Plan Template for Radiation Oncology

Diana Swift

December 04, 2015

The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has developed a template to help standardize post-treatment care for the increasing number of cancer survivors. Although it is specific to radiation oncology, the template is designed to meet the needs of primary care providers, oncology specialists, and patients.

The development of the survivorship care plan is described in a report published online October 6 in Practical Radiation Oncology. A sample of the three-page template appears in the appendix.

"Factors such as earlier detection of cancer, increasingly effective treatment options, and an aging population lead to a growing number of cancer survivors and, ultimately, a need to educate and empower these individuals for their ongoing care," ASTRO Chair Bruce D. Minsky, MD, professor of radiation oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in a news release.

According to that release, the American Cancer Society has predicted a 37% increase in the number of 5-year post-treatment cancer survivors over the next decade.

"The template is designed to foster better coordination of post-treatment care for cancer survivors, including greater clarity in the dialogue between radiation oncologists and [primary care providers] for issues such as less common side effects that may appear well after treatment is complete," Dr Minsky explained.

The template saves radiation oncologists from having to create a separate survivor care plan for patients and treatment completion summary for specialists.

The part of the plan intended for patients and their referring or primary care physicians is designed to clearly explain the diagnosed cancers and treatments and to address quality of life and the physical and psychological needs of the patient.

The template was created after a review of six existing templates, including versions from Memorial Sloan Kettering and Minnesota Cancer Alliance, according to author Ronald Chen, MD, MPH, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues.

It has space for detailed technical information on all aspects of the radiation therapy administered, which is the type of information included in traditional radiation treatment summaries. And it facilitates consistency and reduces the time and effort required by providers to complete each individual plan, Dr Chen reported.

Although such templates are increasingly used in cancer care, a model specific to radiation oncology allows clinicians to capture critical radiation details that other templates do not provide, the authors explain. The current American Society of Clinical Oncology plan, for example, addresses radiation therapy only with a yes/no checkbox and spots for body site treated and treatment year.

The ASTRO template also coordinates contacts for ancillary patient services, such as financial or nutritional counseling, as well as information on potential late effects of treatment.

In a recent ASTRO membership survey, only 40% of responders reported that they used survivorship care plans. However, the majority said that such plans benefit patients, and 84% indicated a need for a plan specific to radiation oncology.

The template addresses new requirements set by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, which has mandated that cancer programs provide survivorship care plans for all curative cancer patients by 2019 to maintain accreditation.

Still, more work needs to be done on the template, the authors acknowledge.

"Future work will include development of disease-specific templates that will include more granular details regarding expected toxicities and follow-up care recommendations, and working with electronic medical record system vendors to facilitate autocreation of [survivorship care plan] documents to reduce the burden on physicians and other staff," they write.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Pract Radiat Oncol. Published online October 6, 2015. Full text

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