For low-income breast cancer survivors, personalized care plans may lead to better health outcomes, a new study finds.
Follow-up care for cancer survivors includes managing the long-term side effects of treatment and monitoring for tumor recurrence, among other things. An individualized care plan can help breast cancer survivors follow those recommendations, the researchers said.
The study included 212 low-income breast cancer survivors. The women were randomly assigned to receive either usual care or a personalized care plan.
The women in the personalized care group were given a treatment summary, an individual continued-care plan, a list of patient support groups and other resources. In addition, they also attended a counseling session to learn how to get their doctors to implement their care plan.
After 12 months, 61 percent of the women in the personalized care group had followed survivor care recommendations, compared with 51 percent of those in the usual care group, the study showed.
The findings were to be presented Friday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in San Francisco. Findings from meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Low-income women tend to have less access to high-quality health care, along with unique needs and concerns," study author Dr. Rose Maly, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in an ASCO news release.
"This personalized intervention would be of greatest benefit to this vulnerable group, and it could be adapted for use with other types of cancer," she added.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that all cancer survivors receive an individualized treatment summary and survivorship care plan, but this isn't done for all patients, according to the news release.
ASCO spokesperson Dr. Merry-Jennifer Markham said that it's important to come up with new ways to deal with this gap in care.
"Cancer care does not end when treatment stops. Survivorship care plans are an important tool for keeping patients healthy in the long run, in terms of screening for second cancers and long-term side effects. Low-income patients face unique challenges in accessing this care," Markham said in the news release.
"This study is an important step forward, demonstrating that personalized care plans in conjunction with one-on-one counseling on survivorship care planning can make a real difference for patients," Markham said.