From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor - Video

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Date: April 2008
Duration: 0 / 04:10

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Segment 2: We're a Team

Dr. Giralt:

Our mission in regards to cancer patients is you know we are we are in it for their life. We’re not here just to cure their cancer. We’re here to give them their life back after cancer.

Narrator:

When you’re cured of cancer, or when you’re in remission, you may still experience some side effects – either short term or long term.

Dr. Escalante:

The patients have been through so much and so many medical treatments that they want to just try to normalize their lives, and get on with it. But I certainly think that there are a lot of issues that arise in our survivors, and many times they just don’t say anything, because no one’s really either paid attention, or they figure it’s something I just have to live with. And that may not necessarily be so.

Narrator:

Every patient’s experience of cancer is different. Likewise, every patient’s experience after cancer treatment is also different. Surveys indicate that two-thirds of survivors say that cancer and its treatment have not affected their health. But for the one-third who are experiencing problems, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. Through research, we’re trying to solve these problems.

Dr. Rodriguez:

So symptom management and supportive care is in itself an area of active research and investigation to make people’s quality of life better again, to make the experience of survivorship better.

Narrator:

Symptoms like fatigue, pain, shingles, neuropathy, and depression, for example, may respond to treatment. Depression may not impact survival, but it certainly does impact quality of life.

Max with Carolyn:

There's a continual struggle to find hope. Because, obviously, there are periods of despair, and the despair can be—the depression can be pretty deep at times. And—but—it's like there'll be an event, like a relapse, or maybe you'll have some sort of a reaction to a treatment, or something like that, and it's like it knocks you down. Right? And so you continually have to sort of adjust to that, and then it's like you recalibrate everything, and you find another reason to hope—another way to—and so you slowly claw back out of this pit.

Narrator:

Also, as part of our research, we use information about long term effects to evaluate and modify original therapies and devise better follow-up plans. This research has already led to some successes.

Dr. Wells:

If we treat patients with Hodgkin’s disease with lots of radiation therapy and lots of alkylating agent chemotherapy that somewhere between 15 and 20 percent will develop a second type of cancer within 15 years. And for that reason, we have modified the therapy for Hodgkin’s disease.

Narrator:

The successes and challenges of cancer survivorship are most evident in the field of pediatric cancer. Before 1950, only 5 to 10 percent of children with cancer survived. Now, it’s estimated that between 70 and 92 percent will survive due to improved treatments.

Dr. Wells:

So one of the clear needs in terms of the issue of survivorship is information about what happens to patients that had a specific type of cancer that was treated according to a specific treatment or protocol. And we need information not only at 1 year and 2 years and 5 years. We need it at 10 years and 20 years and 30 years.

Narrator:

Survivorship is an active area of research, and you can contribute through a willingness to participate in the studies that will make things better for you and other cancer survivors.

Dr. Giralt:

Survivorship is an active area of research, and you can contribute through a willingness to participate in the studies that will make things better for you and other cancer survivors.

Narrator:

We believe that no survivorship clinic can survive without a intensive involvement of the patients they serve and in our survivorship team, we actually have a group of cancer survivors who are there to assist us, to make sure we never lose the perspective of the patient who in the end is the person we serve.

Frank:

I do have a team that is helping. The doctors at M. D. Anderson. They’re helping me. That’s my ground team. However, there’s no real set procedures O.K. if this happens you to this. If that happens, you do that. You throw that switch. You do that switch. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. So, I’ve got to get creative. So, I’m staring at a pretty bad emergency, and I’m trying to resolve it with no resources that are written down or have been rehearsed by the whole team. So, we’re covering new ground and in a way, it’s a little exciting, but there’s always good in everything bad and I’m finding this as a challenge that is my next challenge. Sometimes I wake up thinking well this is a dream and when is the simulation going to stop. But the reality is that it’s not. So I’m trying to get myself ready, and I’m tapping on all types of energy that I can find, training is one, my own energy is another one, my family is another one, so I’m getting everybody in the game, the team of doctors at M. D. Anderson, they’re like my ground control, so failure is not an option.

Carolyn:

It has put faith back into the medical profession for me, that I can actually talk to doctors, and to nurses. And we're just people figuring out the same problem. And I have really appreciated that. And that has helped. I think that it has helped us tremendously through our journey through this. We’re part of a team, and you’re not alone. You are not alone.

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