Markey physician co-authors study on value of cancer survivorship care standards

Man in a brown sport coat and blue tie standing with his hands on a railing
Timothy Mullett, M.D., serves as chair of the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. Pete Comparoni | UK Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 5, 2024) — With the number of adult cancer survivors in the U.S. expected to reach 23 million by 2032, the long-term needs of this population are growing, yet often poorly understood and addressed. A new survey study of cancer care facilities accredited by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer (CoC) indicates that having survivorship standards in place helps centers provide services that meet the distinct needs of cancer survivors.  

The study, published this week in JAMA Network Open, is co-authored by University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center surgeon Timothy Mullett, M.D., who serves as chair of the CoC. David R. Freyer, D.O., at the University of Southern California (USC) Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center led the research. 

The study establishes a national benchmark for survivorship care delivery at CoC-accredited facilities, which treat more than 74% of all cancer patients across the country. 

Since 2015, the CoC accreditation standards have incorporated survivorship care. Beginning in 2021, centers have been required to provide a survivorship program to adults who are being treated for cancer with a high likelihood of being cured.  

To determine the prevalence, types and outcomes of cancer survivorship services available at accredited facilities, USC researchers collaborated with members of the CoC and ACS Cancer Research Program to understand how cancer programs have implemented their survivorship services, what key challenges they have faced and what additional resources would help them achieve their goals. 

“Treatment throughout the continuum of cancer care, including through survivorship, is paramount to help patients achieve optimal clinical outcomes,” said Mullett, who also serves as medical director of the UK Markey Cancer Center’s Affiliate and Research Networks. “We know that adult cancer survivors may develop a variety of late physical and psychosocial effects from cancer treatment that should be addressed with evidence-based care. Treatment should not end once cancer has been cured.”  

Key findings include:  

  • The 2021 CoC survivorship standard helped advance institutions survivorship programs. 
  • Services most available to survivors included screening for new cancers (87.5%), nutritional counseling (85.3%) and referrals to specialists (84.7%).
  • Survivorship services addressing sexual health (57.3%) and fertility (56.9%) were least accessible. 

Understanding the landscape of these services will contribute to identifying gaps, strengths and interventional opportunities for improving survivorship care for the large and growing population of cancer survivors, the authors write. 

“We look forward to using the results of this study, and others to follow, to improve the effectiveness of our critical survivorship standards,” Mullett said. “The CoC strives for all of our programs to realize the value of survivorship care for our patients.” 

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