Dr Inge Kriel explains the importance of oncology care physicians in cancer survivorship care.
Oncology care physicians are doctors who are trained to care for cancer survivors, and as such we form an important part of the cancer management team. The value of oncology care physicians has been recognised internationally, and South Africa has only recently started to appreciate the potential of improvement in patient care through the introduction of oncology care physicians.
The improvement in screening and treatment of cancers has resulted in an increase in the number of cancer survivors; with the number of survivors only set to increase even more over the coming years. This will result in a large number of patients who still need specialised care after they are in remission, and not enough cancer specialists to adequately follow-up and care for these patients.
We, as oncology care physicians, are in the perfect position to assist in the management of these patients from initial diagnosis right through to remission. We are often the first contact the patient has with a doctor, before the patient is referred to a specialist for further treatment of the cancer, and we continue to see the patient throughout their cancer treatment for the management of other medical issues.
We are not only experienced in managing chronic general medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, but we are also able to provide the specialised care that cancer survivors need. Cancers tend to be more prevalent in the ageing population, and it is also this population that has the highest burden of chronic medical conditions. We are able to recognise how cancer
and chronic medical conditions influence each other, and we are therefore able to provide comprehensive care to these patients, thereby improving their quality of life significantly.
The core areas focused on by oncology care physicians are:
- Surveillance for recurrence of cancer as well as screening for the development of new cancers, which may arise as a result of cancer treatment or due to inherited conditions.
- Recognition and management of late and long-term effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
- Health promotion to encourage general well-being.
- Coordination of care with other cancer specialists to ensure that patients receive the highest standard of care.
- Recognition of the profound effect that a cancer diagnosis has on a patient’s social, emotional and financial well-being, as well as the effect on those closest to our patient.
- Patients trust us to manage every other aspect of their health, and now as oncology care physicians, we are also able to guide them through the difficulties and challenges that a cancer diagnosis brings. Cancer survivors need never again ask, “What now? What happens after my cancer is in remission?”
MEET OUR EXPERT – Dr Inge Kriel
Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at TimRon Health and Wellness Centre in Fourways, JHB.