Comprehensive long-term care of patients with lung cancer: development of a novel thoracic survivorship program.
BACKGROUND: Recent advances have improved the likelihood of long-term survival for patients with lung cancer. However, little attention has been given to the growing need for dedicated survivorship care for these patients. To address this unmet need, we developed a unique follow-up care model. METHODS: In 2006, we convened a multidisciplinary working group to design a thoracic survivorship program (TSP) that provides follow-up by a nurse practitioner (NP) trained in survivorship care. Patients with early-stage lung cancer who were disease free for at least 1 year after resection were eligible for the program, which incorporates a standardized approach to cancer surveillance. Data on symptoms and outcomes were prospectively collected. Real-time electronic medical documentation was developed to optimize communication with primary physicians. RESULTS: Data were analyzed for the initial phase of the program, which comprised 655 patients. Ninety-two percent of eligible survivors who remained disease free chose to continue their care in the TSP, rather than receive follow-up with their thoracic surgeon. Clinically significant posttreatment symptoms were common, including fatigue (46%), anxiety (32%), chronic pain (25%), dyspnea (14%), and depression (12%). The majority of recurrences (72%) and second primary cancers (91%) in this cohort were identified by scheduled chest computed tomography at TSP visits. CONCLUSIONS: Survivorship care for patients with lung cancer, delivered in our NP-led TSP, is feasible, effective, and well accepted by patients. Through the implementation of a uniform self-sustaining patient-centered system, the TSP model improves on the variation of physician-led follow-up care.