Cancer Survivorship Q&A

June 2 marks the 26th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day® to raise awareness of the challenges facing the nearly 14 million people who are living with a history of cancer in America. Dr. Anne Blaes leads the Cancer Survivor Program at University of Minnesota Physicians Cancer Care at Fairview. Below she answers questions about cancer survivorship.

Q. What ongoing medical problems do cancer survivors encounter?
A. Survivors face a combination of physical and emotional issues that range from mild to severe. Of course, recurrence of cancer is concern, and some patients are at risk of new cancers occurring. Depending on the specific diagnosis and treatment, patients can be susceptible to other conditions. For example, breast cancer survivors have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. In general, cancer survivors need to be concerned with obesity and diabetes, because through treatment they’ve lost muscle mass and gained fat mass. Combined with the loss of energy and stamina, they can struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

Q. What can cancer survivors do to maintain their health?
A. It is important for cancer survivors to know their history, so they understand their risks and the screening tools available. Again, depending on the diagnosis and treatment patients received, there are different risks and different recommendations for screening.

Q. How does the Cancer Survivor Program at University of Minnesota Physicians Cancer Care at Fairview help cancer survivors?
A. All our patients received a comprehensive treatment summary, including drug exposures, radiation and surgeries, as well as a complete medical history. We consult with them on the risks of their specific diagnosis and treatment, and how to reduce risk of issues in the future.

Most of our patients will continue on-going care with their primary physicians. So, we provide primary physicians with information and education to help patients monitor and manage their health.

Q. What is unique about the program?
A. As a part of the University of Minnesota, we are involved in on-going research and our patients have the opportunity to participate in these studies. Our research spans several topics including quality of life in cancer survivorship, reoccurrence of childhood cancers, vascular health in breast cancer survivors, and prevention using drug therapies. And, we are always adding new studies to continue improve screenings, treatments and options for cancer survivors.

A recent study looked at mindfulness and cancer recovery. It was very popular with patients and has lead to a series of workshops sponsored by the Center for Spirituality & Healing [link] at the University in collaboration with the Masonic Cancer Center, Fairview Maple Grove Medical Center, Fairview Southdale and Southdale YMCA. These sessions focus on integrative therapies and help cancer survivors to manage their physical, mental and emotional well-being.