The majority of the cancer survivors in the United States are 5 or more years beyond their diagnosis. The follow-up care of these individuals remains a major concern for survivors and for the cancer care system. The purpose of this study was to characterize long-term cancer survivors’ visits at a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.
We abstracted electronic medical record data for 18,882 unique patients’ visits during 2010 to determine the distribution of the number of years of survival after the initial cancer diagnosis. We then reviewed 374 patient visits during a randomly selected week in April 2010 to determine whether patients were seen for treatment of a new diagnosis of cancer, a residual or recurrent cancer, for a second or secondary cancer, or for cancer survivorship care while not actively receiving treatment (other than adjuvant hormonal therapy).
In the 1-year group of 18,882 unique patients visits the percentage of patients who were <1, 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and >10 years postdiagnosis were 18.7%, 48.7%, 18.9%, and 13.8%, respectively. During the selected week, 74% of the total office visits were with patients who were being actively treated for a new cancer, relapse, or a second cancer, whereas 24% were not being seen for treatment of an active malignancy. The percentage of total office visits with patients who were <6, 6 to 10, or >10 years postdiagnosis and had completed their initial treatment were 21.4%, 3.7%, and 1%, respectively. Approximately 5% of oncology office visits were with cancer survivors who were 5 or more years postdiagnosis and not receiving treatment.
In a database of over 18,000 unique patients who were seen at a major cancer center in 2010, approximately 68% were 5 or less and 32% were 6 or more years postdiagnosis. A review of the medical oncology notes in a random sample of cases of oncology visits demonstrated that approximately 5% of office visits were with long-term cancer survivors who were >5 years postdiagnosis and not receiving active treatment.
Cancer survivors often indicate a preference to receive long-term follow-up care from their oncologist. These findings suggest that long-term cancer survivorship care represents only a small component of care at a comprehensive cancer center and also that alternative models for long-term survivorship health care need to be considered.
*Division of Hematology/Oncology
†Department of Internal Medicine, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore
‡Apex Epidemiology, Baltimore, MD
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Reprints: Kenneth Miller, MD, Division of Hematology/Medical Oncology, Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute at Sinai, 2401 West Belvedere Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.