Cancer Care after Treatments
Questions to Ask Your Doctor When You Finished Treatment
When you finished your cancer treatment, you'll talk with your doctor about next steps and follow-up care. You may want to ask your doctor some of the following questions:
- How long will it take for me to get better and feel more like myself?
- What kind of care should I expect after my treatment?
- What long-term health issues can I expect as a result of my cancer and its treatment?
- What is the chance that my cancer will return?
- What symptoms should I tell you about?
- What can I do to be as healthy as possible?
- Which doctor(s) should I see for my follow-up care? How often?
- What tests do I need after treatment is over? How often will I have the tests?
- What records do I need to keep about my treatment?
- Can you suggest a support group that might help me?
Key Points for Follow-up Care After Cancer Treatment
- Follow-up cancer care involves regular medical checkups that include a review of a patient’s medical history and a physical exam.
- A key purpose of follow-up care is to check for recurrence (the return of cancer in the primary site) or metastasis (the spread of cancer to another part of the body).
- Follow-up care is individualized based on the type of cancer, the type of treatment received, and the person’s overall health, including possible cancer treatment-related problems.
- There are clinics that specialize in long-term follow-up cancer care for adult and pediatric cancer survivors.
- NCI does not have guidelines for follow-up care, but some organizations do provide these resources.
Follow-up cancer care involves regular medical checkups that include a review of a patient’s medical history and a physical exam. Follow-up care may include imaging procedures (methods of producing pictures of areas inside the body), endoscopy (the use of a thin, lighted tube to examine the inside of the body), blood work, and other lab tests.
Follow-up care is important because it helps to identify changes in health. The purpose of follow-up care is to check for recurrence (the return of cancer in the primary site) or metastasis (the spread of cancer to another part of the body). Follow-up care visits are also important to help in the prevention or early detection of other types of cancer, address ongoing problems due to cancer or its treatment, and check for physical and psychosocial effects that may develop months to years after treatment ends. All cancer survivors should have follow-up care.
What patients should tell their doctor during follow-up visits?
During each visit, patients should tell their doctor about:
- Any symptoms that they think may be a sign that their cancer has returned
- Any pain that bothers them
- Any physical problems that interfere with daily life or are bothersome, such as fatigue; difficulty with bladder, bowel, or sexual function; difficulty concentrating; memory changes; trouble sleeping; and weight gain or loss
- Any medicines, vitamins, or herbs they are taking and any other treatments they are using
- Any emotional problems they are experiencing, such as anxiety or depression
- Any changes in their family medical history, including any new cancers
It's important to note that cancer recurrences are not always detected during follow-up visits. Many times, recurrences are suspected or found by patients themselves between scheduled checkups. It is important for patients to be aware of changes in their health and report any problems to their doctor. The doctor can determine whether the problems are related to the cancer, the treatment the patient received, or an unrelated health issue.