Navigating Cancer Together: A Guide to Taking Charge of Your Health

This text is based on the article Management of Cancer and Health After the Clinic Visit: A Call to Action for Self-Management in Cancer Care, published in PubMed Central on 11 June 2022

Traditionally, cancer care has been like a one-way street, where healthcare professionals take the lead in managing the disease. There's been less emphasis on empowering patients to handle cancer on their own as a long-term condition. According to the 2020 publication 'Management of Cancer and Health After the Clinic Visit: A Call to Action for Self-Management in Cancer Care', unlike other chronic diseases, cancer care hasn't fully integrated self-management practices into regular care routines, leaving patients vulnerable to worsening health outcomes. As the field aims for more personalized care, there's a need for a big shift. This means motivating both patients and healthcare professionals to work together, making sure patients are supported and capable of managing their health around the clock.

Facing cancer means more than just medical treatment; it involves individuals and their families actively managing the disease on a daily basis. However, the publication argues that compared to other chronic illnesses, cancer care hasn't kept up in providing practical self-management support. This gap puts cancer patients at risk for more health problems, long-term challenges, and potentially worse survival rates. Recognizing this gap, the Global Partners on Self-Management in Cancer have outlined six important steps to improve self-management support and empower individuals dealing with cancer.

The first step is about preparing patients and survivors to actively participate in their care. Shifting the care culture, the second step aims to support patients as partners in creating and embedding self-management support into everyday healthcare practices. The third action involves providing healthcare workers with the necessary skills to enable effective self-management. Establishing a system for patients to report their outcomes, the fourth action, aims to measure the effects of self-management support and ensure accountability. The fifth step encourages advancing evidence and research on self-management in cancer populations, while the sixth action focuses on expanding the reach and access of self-management support programs tailored to diverse needs.

Putting a spotlight on cancer self-management is a powerful way to achieve personalized, high-quality care. The proposed actions are a significant step toward integrating self-management support into cancer care, improving health outcomes, speeding up recovery, and potentially reducing long-term challenges. Cancer patients and survivors, often an overlooked resource, are crucial for sustaining the economic health of the cancer system. As we navigate the era of personalized cancer medicine, involving patients in effective cancer self-management is not just a goal; it's a critical part of the ongoing changes in cancer care.

This text is part of the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) repository of best practices and innovations to address the cancer workforce crisis in Europe. You can find more examples of best practices here.