OncoLife web-based cancer survivorhip care plan

A team of cancer specialists from OncoLink.org, the award-winning cancer Web-based resource of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has launched OncoLife, the first and only individualized plan-of-care based on the national Institute of Medicine's recommendations for adult cancer survivors.

Free and easy to use, the new program – soon to be available in Spanish – provides cancer survivors with information regarding the health risks they face as a result of cancer therapies, as well as a defined plan of action to maintain their health once they are out of treatment.

“The good news for cancer survivors is that their numbers are growing,” said James Metz, MD, a radiation oncologist and editor-in-chief of OncoLink. “Thanks to more successful cancer therapies, an estimated 10 million survivors are living in the United States today. Unfortunately, cancer treatments are not without consequences and many of these survivors are dealing with the long term effects of treatments with little or no guidance.”

The OncoLife program, written for survivors of adult cancer, is a simple on-line questionnaire that patients, or their caregivers, can complete.

  • First, survivors go to the OncoLink homepage http://www.oncolink.org and click on the link for the OncoLife page.
  • Next, patients anonymously answer a few demographic questions and seven disease-specific questions, such as type of cancer, treatment, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, etc.
  • Once all the questions are answered and submitted, OncoLife produces a personalized, comprehensive long-term survivorship care plan for free.
  • Participants are then encouraged to review their personalized plan with their health care team – primary care physicians, gynecologists, cardiologists, etc. – to further assess their risk and become active participants in their own follow-up care.

Cancer patients have to endure many negative side effects of treatment, and they don't all stop once it is discontinued. For example, chemotherapy can cause cognitive impairment. Radiation therapy administered near the heart or major arteries can cause premature heart disease. Women treated for Hodgkin's disease as children run an increased risk of developing breast cancer as adults.

“We were getting an increasing number of e-mails at OncoLink from cancer patients all over the world asking basically the same thing: ‘Is what's happening to me a result of my cancer treatment?',” said Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN, oncology nurse educator and creator of OncoLife. “Often, their own oncologists would tell them, ‘No, it wasn't.' So, as more and more questions about long-term survivorship came flooding in, we realized how many people didn't have reliable health care resources to help them chart a survivorship plan. We knew we had to help and we knew we had to create a plan that anyone could access.”

So Vachani, with input from fellow colleagues and OncoLink staff, devised a simple on-line questionnaire that patients could complete or caregivers could complete for their loved ones. The result – the OncoLife Survivorship Care Plan – is a free, easy to understand, practical tool that patients can use together with to the guidance of their primary care physician to chart out their health care future.

What distinguishes OncoLink and OncoLife from other Web-based cancer information resources is that both are completely run by oncology physicians, nurses and other health care professional from Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. “We're real doctors and nurses who see real cancer patients every day,” said Maggie Hampshire, RN, BSN, OCN, a radiation oncology nurse and managing editor of OncoLink. “We're the ones providing the information on our website and responding to patient inquiries – not copy writers or PR agency consultants. We don't just write about people living with cancer, we're helping them get on with life after it.”

The Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) of the University of Pennsylvania is a national leader in cancer research, patient care, and education. The pre-eminent position of the Cancer Center is reflected in its continuous designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute for 30 years, one of 39 such Centers in the United States. The ACC is dedicated to innovative and compassionate cancer care. The clinical program, comprised of a dedicated staff of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, physical therapists, nutritionists and patient care coordinators, currently sees over 50,000 outpatient visits, 3400 inpatient admissions, and provides over 24,000 chemotherapy treatments, and more than 65,000 radiation treatments. Not only is the ACC dedicated to providing state-of-the-art cancer care, the latest forms of cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are available to our patients through clinical themes that developed in the relentless pursuit to eliminate the pain and suffering from cancer. In addition, the ACC is home to the 300 research scientists who work relentlessly to determine the pathogenesis of cancer. Together, the faculty is committed to improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

OncoLink was founded in 1994 by Penn cancer specialists with a mission to help cancer patients, families, health care professionals and the general public get accurate cancer-related information at no charge. Recent changes have been made to OncoLink to update the look and feel of our site. OncoLink is designed to make it easy for the general public to navigate through the pages to obtain the information that they want. The home page has buttons and hypertext links. If you click on the buttons or the underlined text with your mouse, you will go directly to your area of interest. Through OncoLink you can get comprehensive information about specific types of cancer, updates on cancer treatments and news about research advances. We update the information everyday and provide information at various levels, from introductory to in-depth. If you are interested in learning about cancer, you will benefit from visiting OncoLink.

PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report 's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals, all of which have received numerous national patient-care honors [Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multi-specialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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