The study focuses on patients who receive a clean bill of health following successful cancer treatments, who often require a number of resources to deal with the emotional after effects, which can pose a challenge for people living in remote northern communities.

Dr. Rob Olson, radiation oncologist at the B.C. Cancer Agency and principle investigator for the study, says this type of research could lead to significant improvements in a cancer survivor’s road to recovery.

“This research is crucial to improving care in northern B.C. It will empower communities to equip patients to live as strong survivors, fully aware and prepared for what the next phase of their journey details.”

Access to medical experts, such as physicians and counsellors, is limited for the approximately 10,500 cancer survivors living in Northern B.C. resulting in feelings of loneliness while they travel down the road of recovery.

The pilot test was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, in a joint partnership between the B.C. Cancer Agency, Northern Health, UNBC and UBC, working with a variety of northern communities including Dawson Creek, Terrace, Smithers and Vanderhoof.

The $213,054 grant has allowed scientists to complete the first phase of the research project, which was to meet cancer survivors and healthcare staff in the north and inform them of the creation of the care plans to better support patients post-treatment.

Survivorship care plans are tools which will help cancer survivors in their post-treatment journey. The care plans developed through this study include information on medical history and follow-up guidelines, potential side effects, late effects to watch for, healthy living recommendations as well as other resources specific to cancer survivors in northern B.C.

Another feature of the care plan includes a large focus on self-management, providing patients the proper tools to help access accurate information and appropriate resources within the health care system.

A First Nations-specific plan has also been developed in consultation with four First Nations communities that participated in the study and provided insight into culturally specific needs.

Dr. Geoffrey Payne, acting vice-president of research at UNBC, says this research has the potential to provide northern residents with improved health care.

“As research is extremely important for developing new treatments that will benefit cancer survivors, I am pleased to see the progress of this important project that will have significant long-tern benefits for the patients of northern B.C.”

A conclusion of the entire study is expected by the end of 2012, which will be followed by the distribution of the care plans to clinics across northern B.C.