Do Cancer Survivors Get Mammograms?
Researchers Find Breast Cancer Survivors Aren't Always Getting Screened
Survivors 'Lost in Transition'
Doubeni says it is clear that more attention needs to be paid to follow-up care in the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor. A report released by the nation's leading independent medical practices advisory group in November of last year makes the same point.
The Institute of Medicine report noted that too many survivors are "lost in transition" once treatment ends. It also called for every cancer survivor to have a comprehensive care summary and follow-up plan in writing that would include a specific schedule for future cancer screenings.
"Right now, many patients and their primary care physicians aren't really clear about what their follow-up needs are," Doubeni says.
Oncologist and breast cancer specialist Kathryn Edmiston, MD, says her relationship with patients does not end with treatment. She believes this is important because nonspecialists may not have the time to address the specific needs of breast cancer survivors.
"If you have 20 minutes with your primary care provider, the breast cancer you were treated for five or 10 years ago may not be what you discuss."
But the treatment of a host of conditions women face as they age, including menopause-related hot flashes and osteoporosis, may be different for breast cancer survivors.
Edmiston continues to see patients annually for the rest of their lives or until they decide to end the relationship. The practice is considered the standard of care at UMass Memorial Hospital, where she works.
"Women who have been treated for breast cancer remain at risk, and they should be followed by their oncologist for as long as they need to be," she says.