The new Midwest Cancer Alliance Survivorship Transition Clinic is slated to open November 6-one of six adult care clinics in the country specializing in addressing long-term health issues in survivors of childhood cancer who are at high risk for late effects of their cancer treatment.
Pictured left to right: Kyla Alsman, RN, Morgan Simpson, and Becky Lowry, MD
The new Midwest Cancer Alliance Survivorship Transition Clinic is slated to open November 6—one of six adult care clinics in the country specializing in addressing long-term health issues in survivors of childhood cancer who are at high risk for late effects of their cancer treatment.
According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 80% of children live at least 5 years after a cancer diagnosis. Health authorities estimate that there are currently close to 400,000 individuals in the United States who have survived childhood cancer, and the number keeps growing. These survivors are at high risk for late effects, which may include secondary cancers, fertility issues, cardiovascular disease and endocrine problems due to medication side effects, weakened immune systems, and other issues.
The new center was developed by Midwest Cancer Alliance (MCA), the outreach arm of The University of Kansas (KU) Cancer Center, in partnership with Children’s Mercy. It is a companion program to the pediatric Survive & Thrive program at Children’s Mercy and is open to patients 18 and older.
“This program helps give pediatric cancer survivors access to long-term care tailored to their unique needs," explained Becky Lowry, MD, medical director of the new clinic and assistant professor of internal medicine at KU Cancer Center.
Lowry added that another factor that makes follow-up appointments like these so critical is a phenomenon unofficially known as “falling off the medical map.” Lowry explained that those in their twenties and thirties often do not think about or regularly seek medical care, which can increase complications for high-risk patients like cancer survivors.
The Survivorship Transition Clinic nurse navigator, Kyla Alsman, RN, has 9 years of experience as a pediatric oncology nurse at Children’s Mercy. As navigator, she helps survivors of childhood cancer who are 18 and older transition to adult care at KU Medical Center, in collaboration with each patient’s primary care provider.
The growing numbers of patients visiting the new clinic represent a wide range of ages. “We have patients in their 50s as well as young adults who are college age and were seen within the past year or two in a children’s hospital or clinic,” said Alsman.
Morgan Simpson, a 6-year survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, received her initial treatment at Children’s Mercy but will soon switch her care to the Survivorship Transition Clinic The team there will track her adult healthcare records, monitor her long-term risk issues during yearly follow-up visits, provide educational materials and referrals, and share the results with her primary care physician.
“I was in high school when I was diagnosed but, now that I’m 21, I know it’s time to start getting my care in an adult setting that is familiar with my health issues,” said Simpson. “It’s a big help to have a clinic like this where it’s easy to make the switch.”
As Joy Fulbright, MD, medical director of Survive & Thrive at Children’s Mercy explained, “Transitioning from pediatric to adult care is stressful for survivors and their families from pediatric to adult care. When we discuss the new Survivorship Transition Clinic with families, you can just see the relief in their faces.”
The clinic is located in The University of Kansas Physicians Medical Office Building, near State Line Road and Olathe Boulevard on the University of Kansas Medical Center campus.