It’s not unusual to feel a bit isolated after treatment, as you have less contact with the doctors and nurses who cared for you. But you’ll still be able to see your specialist doctor or nurse if you have any problems.
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What happens after treatment depends on the type of cancer and treatment you’ve had. It’s likely that you’ll have check-ups in the first year or so. This could be in person at the hospital, or by telephone with a specialist nurse. You may need to have tests and scans but you will also be given information on how to look out for specific symptoms or side effects. Your healthcare team can also give you advice and emotional support.
When you visit your doctor it may help for you to take someone with you, write a list of questions and take a notepad to write down their answers. You can speak honestly to your doctor about how you are feeling and any symptoms you may have.
It’s a good idea to book an appointment with your GP after your treatment finishes. Your GP is responsible for your general health and can give you emotional support as well as advice on your recovery and staying well.
Your check-ups (sometimes called follow-up care) will depend on the type of cancer and treatment you had. Your specialist will explain what’s involved.
Care after treatment will vary from person to person. How often you might be seen by a specialist doctor or nurse after treatment is based on your individual situation.
Some people will be seen around 6–8 weeks after their treatment has ended and will continue to be seen regularly. To start with you’ll usually be seen every few months, but this will eventually lessen to once a year. At each appointment, your doctor will examine you and ask questions about your health and how you’ve been feeling. You may also have blood tests, or occasionally scans.
Not everyone is seen as regularly as this. Instead, you may be advised to get in touch with your GP, specialist doctor or nurse if you develop any new problems. Or you may have telephone appointments from time to time. In this situation, you’ll be given advice on which symptoms or side effects to look out for. It may be useful to check with your specialist team to find out who to get in touch with if you notice problems, and to make sure that you have their phone number.
If you’re having ongoing treatment (hormonal therapy or maintenance treatment) you may have to keep going to the hospital. Some people may have their ongoing treatment prescribed by their GP, which is sometimes called a “shared care” agreement.
Telephone clinics run by specialist cancer nurses are becoming a more common and effective type of follow up after treatment. It helps you avoid long journeys and waits in hospital clinics. Having fewer hospital visits makes some people feel less anxious. You’ll still have any regular tests or scans you need. You’ll see your cancer doctor if your nurse thinks anything needs to be checked further.
This type of follow up is sometimes called supported self-management or self-triggered follow-up. It means you’re more in control of your care. Your cancer team will provide you with information on side effects, symptoms to look out for, and advice on what you can do to help yourself.
You need to have contact numbers for your cancer team for this type of follow-up. It’s a good idea to add them to your mobile phone or address book.
Although telephone clinics are proving to be helpful and practical, some people may not be comfortable with them. If you’re worried about this type of follow-up, you can talk to your nurse or doctor. They can reassure you and explain why it’s suitable for your situation. If you still feel that this type of follow-up is not right for you, you can choose a different type of follow-up.
Any tests you need will depend on the type of cancer you have and your individual situation. When treatment ends most people don’t have tests or scans straight away, because they’re not likely to provide any new information at this stage. For some cancers you may need regular tests, but for others you’ll only need one if you develop symptoms.
Some people may have further tests (such as blood tests) but won’t see their specialist doctor afterwards. In this situation, it’s important to ask your doctor how you’ll get the results of these tests and who to contact if you develop any new problems.
If you find out that you’re not going to be seen regularly by your doctor or have regular tests, it may feel very worrying. When a cancer does come back, in most situations it’s first discovered when someone tells their doctor about new symptoms they’re experiencing. For many cancer types, it’s unusual for a returning cancer to be found by scans or blood tests before any symptoms appear.
If you’re worried about not having regular check-ups, speak to your doctor or specialist nurse. They may be able to explain that this is normal for your situation, which you might find reassuring. It can also help to find out which symptoms you should look out for and who to get in touch with if you do notice any.
If you’re going to be seen in person by a specialist doctor or nurse, or if you’ll be speaking to them on the phone, here are some things to help you get the most out of your appointments:
Although you may feel anxious before your appointment, it’s common to feel reassured afterwards that it’s another step in your recovery.
Knowing more about your condition and recovery, and staying well will help you get the most benefit from your treatment. Follow the advice from your cancer team and make it a part of your usual routine. This may involve taking your medicines, doing certain exercises to improve movement, or becoming more physically active.
After your treatment finishes, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to see your GP. Your cancer team will send them a report on your treatment. It’s always worth telling your GP about any problems you need help with. Some GPs are involved in shared care after you leave hospital and may prescribe some of the drugs you need to take.
Your GP is responsible for your general health and can give you emotional support, advice on your recovery and staying well. The GP practice may be very helpful in supporting the people close to you as well.
Keep up with any regular checks you usually have done at your GP surgery. These may include checking your blood pressure or having your routine cervical screening. It’s important to look after your general health.
After treatment, it’s common to worry that every ache and pain you have is linked to cancer. You’ll still be getting used to what now feels normal for you and you’ll have the usual aches and pains most people get. But it can be hard to know what’s what.
There may be specific symptoms your cancer team wants to hear about directly. Make sure you know what these are and that you have contact numbers to get in touch with your team. You don’t have to wait until your appointment to contact your cancer doctor or nurse. They can reassure you or explain if your symptoms may be linked to your treatment. They can also arrange to see you if needed.
Always let your cancer doctor or nurse know if you have:
Constantly checking yourself for symptoms can make you feel very anxious. If you find this is happening, talk to your hospital nurse, doctor or GP. It’s important to be aware of changes to your body but it’s not helpful if this is your main focus. This can happen when you feel anxious and are finding it hard to cope with uncertainty. Talk to your doctor or nurse for advice and try to focus on the things you can control. This includes getting involved in your own care and improving your well-being.
Download our booklet in PDF or eBook format. It covers the emotional and practical issues you may face after cancer treatment.
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