What happens after treatment?

Now that your treatment has ended you can focus on your recovery. Cancer can be life changing so getting back to normal may take some time. To begin with, you may have days when you feel less positive or are still coping with treatment side effects. So try not to expect too much straight away.

To begin with, you’ll usually have regular follow-up appointments to check your progress and to discuss any concerns you may have. If you have any problems in between appointments always get in touch. Advice and support will be available even after treatment ends.

You may find you gradually get back to the routines you had before cancer treatment. But some people have on-going side effects after cancer treatment and may have to adjust to a new routine.

You may decide to make some positive lifestyle changes after finishing treatment. This may include eating healthily, being more physically active, stopping smoking or taking up a complementary therapy to reduce stress.

Follow-up

After your chemotherapy has finished, you will have regular check-ups and possibly scans or x-rays. This will depend on your type of cancer and the treatments you have had.

Many people find that they get very anxious before their appointments. This is natural. It may help to get support from family, friends or another useful organisation during this time.

Follow-ups are a good opportunity to discuss any problems or worries you have. It may help to make a list of questions beforehand so you don’t forget anything important.

If you have any problems, or notice any new symptoms in between your appointments, let your GP or cancer doctor know as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment – you can ask for an earlier one.

You may have your follow-up appointments at a nurse-led clinic and only see your cancer specialist if something needs to be checked further. Instead of routine appointments, some people are asked to contact their nurse or cancer specialist if there’s anything they’re worried about.


Beginning to recover

Coming to the end of your chemotherapy treatment can be a time of mixed emotions. You’ll probably feel relieved, but may feel anxious or uncertain about the future. Many people find that they feel very low and emotional at this time, when they had expected to be able to put the cancer and the treatment behind them.

It can take time to rebuild confidence and to come to terms with what you’ve been through. It may also take time to recover from treatment. You may feel tired for a while and you may have emotional or physical changes to deal with. It’s important to give yourself time to adjust.

You can also ask your healthcare team or search our organisations database for the details of local support groups that may be able to help you.


How you can help yourself

When treatment is over, you may want to think about making changes to your lifestyle and find out more about healthy living.

Perhaps you already followed a healthy lifestyle before your treatment, but you may now want to be more focused on making the most of your health. There are things you can do to help your body recover. These can also help improve your sense of well-being and lower your risk of getting other illnesses and other cancers.

What you can do

There are some things you can do that will help improve your health.

Regular physical activity is good for your heart and lungs, and it keeps your bones healthy.

Keeping to a healthy weight and eating healthily is good for your heart and bones. 

If you smoke, giving up is the best decision you can make for your health. Smoking is a major risk for heart and lung problems and also affects your bone health. Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer and a major risk factor for other cancers. Our information on giving up smoking has tips to help you stop.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies can help to improve people’s quality of life and well-being. It can also sometimes help to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Many people find that complementary therapies can help them feel stronger and more confident to deal with chemotherapy. Many of these therapies can be used safely alongside conventional treatments and medicines, but it’s important to check the particular treatment with your doctor first.

You may want to try complementary therapies, such as meditation or visualisation, to help you feel less anxious. Other therapies, such as gentle massage, may also help. Some hospitals offer complementary therapies alongside conventional care. These may include massage, relaxation and aromatherapy.


How others can help

There may be times when you want to be alone with your thoughts. At other times, sharing your feelings can be a relief.

Support groups

Support groups can put you in touch with other people having similar treatment. Talking with other people can be a good way of discussing feelings, and you can also pick up some useful coping tips. Our cancer support specialists can give you details of your local support groups. You can talk to them on 0808 808 00 00.

Family and friends

Family and friends often want to help you. However, they may find it difficult to understand exactly what you’re going through. Good communication is really important. Just at a time when you feel your friends and family should be helping, they may stand back and wait for you to make the first move. This is often because they’re worried they may say the wrong thing, or they think you may want to cope alone. They may also be feeling quite emotional themselves. You may find our booklet Lost for words – how to talk to someone with cancer helpful.

Try to be open and honest about how your treatment is going and how you feel about it. Misunderstandings can then be avoided and family and friends are given the chance to show their love and support.

Our website The Source has valuable information to help family and friends know what to say or do when someone they care about has cancer. For further information and advice on medication, call the Macmillan Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to Chemotherapy explained

Chemotherapy for brain tumours

You may be given chemotherapy drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given in a drip, as tablets or as implants.

When is chemotherapy used?

Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells in the body. Your doctor will explain if chemotherapy is advised for you.

How do chemotherapy drugs work?

Chemotherapy drugs work by stopping cancer cells reproducing. The drugs can also affect healthy cells, causing side effects.