The American Journal of Nursing (AJN) recently released a consensus report based on the outcome of the invitational symposium, "The State of the Science on Nursing Approaches to Managing Late and Long-Term Sequelae of Cancer and Cancer Treatment," which took place in Philadelphia in July 2005. The report, which accompanied the March issue of AJN, offers action strategies and recommendations, from a nursing perspective, for addressing the health needs of the more than 10 million long-term cancer survivors alive today. The report details knowledge gaps and barriers to optimal care that exist in today's health-care system and makes recommendations for clinical practice, research, education, and health policy.
"The late effects of cancer and treatment for survivors diagnosed as adults remain poorly documented, yet up to 75% of survivors have health deficits related to their treatment," said symposium coleader Carol P. Curtiss, msn, rn-c, clinical nurse specialist, Curtiss Consulting, and adjunct faculty member at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston. "Over half of cancer survivors have chronic pain, 70% experience depression, and one-third experience infertility."
Nurses in Central Role
Her coleader, Pamela J. Haylock, ma, rn, cancer care consultant and doctoral student at the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Nursing in Galveston, added, "The relative roles of primary care providers and specialists who care for cancer survivors are not clear. Since it is primarily nurses who manage these side effects, nurses often serve as catalysts for addressing their needs."
The report concluded that science and nursing approaches that address the needs of long-term cancer survivors are in the early stages. Nursing leadership, coordination, and participation were affirmed as central to moving the agenda forward by facilitating communication and collaboration with organizations engaged in improving survivorship care. As the largest and most trusted group of health-care professionals (per a 2005 Gallup Poll), nurses are in all settings and thus the ideal providers to monitor for problems so that early interventions can be employed.