Wilmot Cancer Center Launches New Program to Support Cancer Survivors
Factors such as breakthroughs in research and treatment, earlier detection and more accurate diagnoses have resulted in a swell in the number of cancer survivors. But, cancer and cancer treatment are often followed by delayed or long-term physical and psychological effects, which are important for the patient, their family, and primary care physician to be aware of.
The James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center is helping patients navigate the complexities of cancer survivorship care with the introduction of the Judy DiMarzo Survivorship Program — the first in the region to offer this comprehensive approach to survivorship. The program will serve as the next step in a patient’s care once they have completed cancer treatment.
“Survivorship is a key phase in the continuum of care for cancer patients as our focus turns from treatment to ongoing management of potential long-term effects and overall wellness,” said Jonathan Friedberg, M.D., director, Wilmot Cancer Center. “We estimate that there are approximately 2,780 additional cancer survivors in Monroe County every year—more than 25,000 in a 10-year period —making this program essential for the community we serve.”
Complexities of surviving cancer can include heart or lung impairments, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, emotional difficulties and a higher risk of developing a secondary cancer. Through the clinical survivorship program, patients and their families receive a personalized treatment summary, which is also shared with the patient’s primary care physician to coordinate continuity of care. Information in the summary includes the following:
- Detailed information about the specific cancer diagnosis and disease stage, along with types of treatment received and possible late effects of treatment.
- Names and contact information for all physicians and other members of the care team who have prescribed treatments and performed any surgery.
- Recommendations for follow-up visits and surveillance tests, monitoring for signs and symptoms of disease reoccurrence.
- Advice for common areas of concern, like nutrition, exercise, pain management, mental health and financial issues.
Wilmot patients will continue to work with the cancer team they are familiar with from treatment. The program will be rolled out across all disciplines, starting with lymphoma and breast cancer, in the next six months. The ultimate goal of the program is to become a regional resource for all cancer survivors, regardless of where they received cancer treatment, and work with primary care physicians and community programs across the region to best serve this growing population.
“Living beyond cancer should be cause for celebration,” said Louis "Sandy" Constine, M.D., director of the survivorship program and professor of Radiation Oncology and Pediatrics. “Unfortunately, many cancer survivors have physical problems, financial obstacles and mountains of emotions that must be conquered. All of these hurdles can compromise the quality of life of cancer survivors and their family.”
Constine has worked with co-directors Michelle Shayne, M.D., associate professor of Hematology/Oncology, and Eva Galka, M.D., assistant professor of Surgery, and others from various cancer disciplines, to ensure a customized and holistic program for each type of cancer.
The Wilmot Cancer Center has a deep history in research related to challenges faced by cancer survivors. For decades, Wilmot scientists have been studying the risks of second cancers, sleep disorders, nausea and post-treatment effects. The clinical survivorship program is just one of the many examples of how research at Wilmot is quickly translated into better treatments and outcomes for patients.
The survivorship program has benefitted from a generous gift from “Judy’s Fund: Hope for Cancer Survivors,” established by her family and friends through a community-based initiative in memory of Judy DiMarzo, who lost her nine-year battle with lymphoma in 2009.
“While Judy was receiving treatment, our family learned so much about the meaningful difference the Cancer Center has on the community and patients that are cared for each day,” said Richard DiMarzo, Judy’s husband. “To give back to a place that touched our lives so deeply will not only help create a program to better support cancer survivors, but also allow us to have Judy in the minds of others—a true gift for our family.”
The Wilmot Cancer Center and Judy’s Fund will host the Warrior Walk on Sunday, June 2 at the University of Rochester River Campus to support the survivorship program.