IUPUI’s Diane Von Ah recently served on the Committee on Diagnosing and Treating Adult Cancers, an ad hoc panel brought together by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and the U.S. Social Security Administration, which was tasked with providing an overview of the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of select adult cancers with a focus on breast cancer and lung cancer, among the most prevalent cancers in the United States.
Earlier this year, the committee released its consensus study report – the first to provide a comprehensive review of the diagnosis and treatment of breast and lung cancers, as well as the functional and cognitive limitations of cancer and its treatment.
“This report has incredible policy implications and shines a light on the late- and long-term effects of cancer and cancer treatment that are not fully understood or addressed,” said Von Ah, a professor and associate dean of academic operations at the IU School of Nursing at IUPUI. “It provides the Social Security Administration with a comprehensive, up-to-date, evidence-based document to utilize in revising guidelines that will be used to make assessments of disability for the millions of cancer survivors in the United States.”
Cancer survivors under age 65 can apply for disability benefits if they are unable to work, and the report will help the Social Security Administration during its disability determination process. Von Ah said these determinations have a significant impact on the livelihood of survivors and their families, as cancer and treatment can affect their ability to work and contribute to the financial toxicity that many survivors face.
“My research has shown that cognitive impairment is a major barrier to returning to work, and why, for many reasons, returning to work is an important indicator of health in cancer survivors,” said Von Ah, whose research strives to address cognitive dysfunction and other correlated symptoms that have debilitating impact on cancer survivors. “In addition to the economic and financial benefits, returning to work and maintaining employment has been described by cancer survivors as giving meaning and purpose to life and is often denoted as a sign of full recovery from cancer and its treatment.”
Von Ah said serving on the committee provided her with a great opportunity to work with other experts from around the country who are focused on improving the lives of cancer survivors, while helping meet a critical need for the Social Security Administration.
“Because so many cancer-related impairments result in disability and require survivors to apply through the Social Security Administration, it is crucial that they have an understanding of the impact of the diagnosis, current treatment methodologies, common acute, late- and long-term effects of treatment, and its impact on cancer survivors’ ability to work and the potential need for disability.”