The Survivorship Care Plan
One helpful tool for managing your follow-up care is a survivorship care plan. This document includes a summary of your diagnosis and all the treatments you received, as well as a follow-up plan of the steps you need to take to achieve the best health and well-being possible. The survivorship care plan is a very important part of follow-up care for everyone who completes treatment for cancer. It helps you work effectively with your primary care doctor as well as other members of your health care team.
Survivorship Care Plan Checklist
Use this list as a guide when creating your personalized survivorship care plan. Ask your doctor for a treatment summary, which should include:
- The type and stage of the cancer(s) you were diagnosed with, as well as the date you were diagnosed
- The types of treatment you received (including surgical procedures, names of chemotherapy drugs, radiation doses, and all tests that were performed) and dates received
- Complications you may have experienced (such as side effects, transfusions, and hospitalizations)
- Other treatments used (such as physical therapy, acupuncture, herbs, vitamins, or other alternative treatments)
Discuss with your doctor what your follow-up plan will be. This should include:
- A description of your state of health at the end of treatment
- A future schedule of visits (time and date)
- Who will deliver follow-up care (and where)
- Tests that will be done and why they are needed (such as those watching for a recurrence)
- What long-term effects might occur (such as swelling or numbness in the limbs, pain, or depression), how to watch for them, and how they will be treated
- Symptoms to watch for that might signal a return of your cancer
- A list of any habits you may have that can interfere with your recovery, and the steps you will take to adopt a more healthy lifestyle
Tips for Managing Medical Debt
Whether or not you are insured, you may find yourself struggling with outstanding medical bills from your cancer treatment. Consider the following options.
If You are Insured
Read your insurance policy and understand the terms of your contract. If you have questions, ask your insurance company, insurance broker, or the human resources staff at your place of employment to explain it to you. Your insurer may have denied a claim even though you are entitled to coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation has an excellent guide on how to dispute claims with your insurer. For more information, HealthCare.gov has an excellent guide on how to dispute claims with at www.healthcare.gov/appeal-insurance-company-decision/appeals/ or read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled, “Understanding Your Insurance Coverage.”
Ask the hospital or doctor to consider the insurance payment as “payment in full.” Many people don’t think to do this, and it is often more successful than expected. Some hospitals have funds to offset medical services that aren’t fully covered by insurance.
Whether or Not You Have Insurance
Double check all bills and EOBs (explanation of benefits). You’d be surprised how often billing mistakes are made. If you don’t receive an itemized bill, ask for one. Look for incorrect dates of service (for instance, you shouldn’t be billed for the room on the day you were discharged) and fees billed more than once for the same test or procedure.
Work out a payment plan. Often, doctors and hospitals are willing to negotiate interest-free monthly payments.
Seek out help from nonprofit organizations such as the Patient Advocate Foundation (800-532-5274 or www.patientadvocate.org) and CancerCare. Call 800-813-HOPE (4673) and speak with a CancerCare professional oncology social worker who can help you explore your options and find appropriate resources.