Experts in cancer with University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians) have established themselves as leaders in addressing survivorship care. With numerous physicians at the Masonic Cancer Center, a designated Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute and a Commission on Cancer accredited site, they are poised to help cancer survivors with whatever challenges face them.

Anne Blaes, MD, is one of them. She is an M Physicians oncologist and hematologist and is the current chair of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Cancer Survivorship Committee. The group addresses guidelines, as well as policy on how to take care of cancer survivors. 

Dr. Blaes stated, “I’m working on examining how to better engage and educate primary care providers in the care of cancer survivors. Lucie Turcotte, MD, MPH, and Karim Sadak, MD, MPH, work on the Children’s Oncology Group to build better protocols and conduct studies on how to better understand these late effects. Shernan Holtan, MD and Mukta Arora, MD are working with bone marrow transplant research teams on implementing better survivorship care.”

Physicians complete treatment summaries and survivorship care plans on all patients finishing curative intent treatment. Cancer itself has numerous treatment options, but survivorship care poses unique challenges. 

“Traditionally, survivorship care focuses on long and late-term effects of cancer therapies – risks of recurrence or secondary malignancies, risk of cardiovascular disease as it relates to cancer treatment, neuropathy, fatigue, cardiopulmonary deconditioning, quality of life and anxiety/depression after treatment. We have also learned, though, that many individuals will live with cancer for many years, making survivorship care not important just for long-term survivors but also for those living with cancer.”

Anne Blaes, MD, M Physicians Oncologist/Hematologist

Even after an individual beats cancer, risk still exists for a second form of cancer to develop. And, on top of that, some cancer survivors deal with previously unthinkable life changes, such as financial toxicity or the loss of a job. 

“Even when cured from cancer, cancer survivors do not have the same life expectancy as those individuals who were never diagnosed with cancer. They are at higher risk for a second cancer diagnosis or cardiovascular disease. Late effects shorten life expectancy and impaired quality of life,” Dr. Blaes said.

Providers within M Health Fairview Clinics and Surgery Center provide follow up with patients long-term, providing consultations, describing their potential late effects and recommended screenings. Patients can come for a one-time consult, and then return to their provider in the community for continued care.

“We are a resource for the state as well,” Dr. Blaes said. “We have representation on the Minnesota Cancer Alliance to help communities care for cancer survivors as well as to address needs. We speak at local conferences about these issues.”

More and more groups of doctors are aware of the growing number of cancer survivors as well as the potential complications that accompany them. They are interested in learning about these effects and understanding why they occur, and M Physicians is taking the lead on ensuring cancer survivors receive the care they need.