Many breast cancer survivors encounter delayed side effects—such as heart problems, nerve damage, osteoporosis, and secondary cancers—that can continue or emerge 10, 15, or more years after treatment ends, according to a survey by Cancer Support Community.
The survery—which was funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure—found that many survivors feel that social and emotional issues are some of the hardest side effects to handle. About 90% of survey respondents said they had at least one delayed physical, psychological or social issue that was moderate to severe. Fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and sleep issues were most frequently cited in the survey. Almost 25% of respondents said they experienced depression, which is about twice the national rate.
Although 96% of respondents said they wanted a survivorship plan, just 10% said they received such plans, which summarize the tests and treatments patients have received, side effects to expect, lifestyle changes to make, and where patients should seek follow-up care.
Many cancer centers have launched "survivorship" centers to address this issue, but about 85% of breast cancer patients are treated in community settings that do not have such resources, the Wall Street Journal reports. Beginning next year, the American College of Surgeons plans to require survivorship plans and distress screenings for facilities to receive accreditation (Beck, Journal, 10/11).