Staying Healthy: A New Clinic for Lymphoma Survivors

Thanks to major advances in the understanding and treatment of lymphoma — one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States — more people than ever are enjoying active lives for years and even decades after being declared free of the disease. But doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering and elsewhere have found that over time, many of these individuals develop complications as a result of the treatment they received.

MSK hematologic oncologist Mathew Matasar cares for lymphoma survivors.
MSK hematologic oncologist Mathew Matasar cares for lymphoma survivors.

Despite improvements in approaches to radiation and chemotherapy, people may still experience damage that increases their risk for heart disease, skin cancer, lung conditions, and other illnesses.
 
“Since we know that many of our patients may experience long-term problems, we decided to initiate a program that could help quickly identify and address them,” explains hematologic oncologist Matthew Matasar. “And through clinical trials and other research, we’re looking for even more ways to keep our survivors healthy.” 
 

An Exclusive Dedication to Long-Term Survivors

Begun in 2014 and housed within the Lymphoma Service at MSK’s 64th Street Outpatient Center, the Lymphoma Survivorship Clinic welcomes MSK survivors of all ages, as well as patients initially treated for the disease at other institutions. The clinic starts caring for people as soon as three years after they complete treatment.   

Physician Assistants (PAs) — medical professionals certified to practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor — provide follow-up care for patients. Sharyn Kurtz, PA-C (Physician Assistant Certified) and Teresa Scardino, PA-C, communicate directly with every patient’s oncologist and primary care physician to transition care to the survivorship clinic. The PA’s role includes monitoring for cancer recurrence, managing the late effects of treatment, and ordering screening tests for other cancers. “The Lymphoma Survivorship Program has provided a model that is unique and successful in managing life after cancer,” says Dr. Matasar.
   
Depending on factors such as the types of treatments survivors received and their general health when they were diagnosed with lymphoma, Ms. Scardino and Ms. Kurtz, along with Dr. Matasar, monitor patients for:

  • heart disease    
  • the development of second cancers such as breast, lung, and skin cancer and leukemia
  • thinking and memory problems (commonly known as “chemobrain”)
  • lung health
  • bone health
  • stroke
  • problems with teeth and gums
  • reduced thyroid function
  • dry eyes, cataracts, and other eye issues
  • emotional and psychological health​

Evidence-Based Expertise

As part of MSK’s larger program in cancer research and survivorship, the clinic is also able to offer access to clinical trials and other research that can help people facing the late effects of lymphoma treatment.   

Current investigations are asking questions about how doctors can anticipate and assist women at risk for long-term sexual and reproductive health issues, which interventions might best help problems with thinking and memory, and whether cardiac MRI can detect early changes among survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma.

“It was high time that lymphoma survivors got a specialized clinic of their own,” says Dr. Matasar. “In part because the clinic is right here, embedded in our Lymphoma Service, we can deliver just the kind of care these patients need in order to help them live their lives to the fullest.”