Sep 11, 2018
Regina Jacob, MD, MSCE, is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in North Philadelphia. She is a member of the Multispecialty Coordination & Communication Working Group.
Since its inception, survivorship care has always been a compendium
of communication, care coordination, and education.
Many of the anxieties and struggles that arise in survivorship
care can usually be traced back to a breech in the standard of one
of these three dimensions.
Primary care providers express discomfort about managing the
care of a cancer survivor usually because they are unaware of the
treatments that patients have received. Similarly, patients feel nervous
about leaving their oncologists because they are worried their
primary care providers would be unaware of how to manage their
complex care. These anxieties already exist for treatments that have
been studied for several years, of which the long-term side effects
are well known, so imagine how much more of a concern this is for
treatments that are relatively new.
Immunotherapies are novel, exciting, and effective. But when it
comes to the long-term effects, they are still largely unknown. This
means that there is a fourth dimension of potential anxiety in the care
of a cancer survivor who received immunotherapy: the unknown.
It is often said that the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear
of the unknown, and many times the best way to address fear is to
ensure open lines of communication. This could also be said for
immunotherapies and their associated adverse events. In order to
better improve survivorship care, while also addressing the fear and
anxiety involved in the post-treatment phase, providers need to
communicate effectively with each other, which will naturally improve
education and care coordination simultaneously. Since immune-related
adverse events are still being discovered, these discussions
are even more imperative.
The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) is working
to compile a list of known immune-related adverse events for
existing immunotherapies, which should help educate providers and
enable cancer survivors to feel more empowered in their own care.
In addition to these efforts, ACCC is open to hearing about other
strategies to improve the communication, care coordination, or the
education standard necessary for successful cancer survivorship care.
Early recognition and management of immune-related adverse
events (irAEs) is critical for quality care of patients receiving checkpoint
inhibitor immunotherapy, and involving clinicians from other
specialties is key to that recognition. Learn how one cancer program
established a multi-specialty immunotherapy toxicity team with the
necessary expertise to evaluate and manage patients with irAEs.
Complementing the article is the ACCC IO Toxicity Team Companion
Guide, which visually outlines 8 effective practices for developing a
toxicity team at your program or practice.
Download the article and companion guide at accc-cancer.org/toxicityteam.