For some people, the end of treatment means they are not likely to need any more cancer treatment. For other people, treatment is about managing the cancer over a long period of time.
Towards the end of your treatment, you usually have a discussion with someone from your cancer team. This may be with your cancer doctor, specialist nurse, or with another member of your healthcare team. It is a good idea to prepare for this and think about what you would like to ask.
They will talk to you about what to expect after treatment finishes, and your follow-up care. They will also ask about any concerns or specific needs you have, and help you make a plan for your recovery. This may be called a personalised care and support plan.
You may feel relieved when your treatment ends. But you may still have side effects from treatment and other emotions to cope with. It is important to accept that it will take time to recover.
We have more information about beginning your recovery.
Your cancer team should give you details of who to contact after your treatment finishes. This may be a specialist nurse, or another member of the cancer team. They may be called your key worker.
Keep their contact details in your phone or somewhere safe.
You could also tell your GP you are approaching the end of treatment. You can talk to them about any concerns you may have.
Questions to ask your key worker
Knowing what to expect can help you to adjust to life after treatment. For example, you may want to know:
- how often you will have follow-up reviews (check-ups) and for how long
- about any blood tests, scans or other tests you may need and how often you might need these
- how to contact your healthcare team.
You may also want information about:
- how to manage any side effects or symptoms you have
- symptoms to look out for that may be signs of cancer
- side effects of your treatment that may happen months or years after treatment ends (late effects)
- what you can do to stay healthy and well
- things you can do to reduce the risk of cancer coming back
- health and well-being clinics, events, or support for people with cancer in your area.
You may hear some health professionals talk about personalised care. This is a term that combines all the options below:
Holistic Needs Assessment
In some hospitals, the discussion with your cancer team is called a Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA). You may have already had an HNA when you were first diagnosed. You answer a set of simple questions about all areas of your life. This helps you identify any concerns you would like to talk about. You can discuss these with a member of your cancer team. Together you can talk about possible solutions and make a plan. This makes sure your care is planned based on what is most important to you.
Personalised care and support plan
Your cancer team may write a care plan for you. It is based on any concerns you have discussed and explains how you will be supported now and in the future. It also lists services you may want to use. Your cancer team should give you a copy so you can share it with other healthcare professionals. Your needs and concerns may change over time. You can have another HNA and make a new care plan at any time.
At the end of your treatment, your cancer team may create a summary of the treatment you have had. This may be after a certain phase of treatment, or after you finish all your treatment.
Your treatment summary will include information about:
- the cancer and treatment you have had
- possible side effects of treatment
- any symptoms to look out for
- details of follow-up appointments and tests you may need
- contact details for your cancer team.
Your cancer team will give you a copy of your treatment summary. They will also send one to your GP. If you are not given a copy and would like one, talk to your cancer team.
HNAs, personalised care plans and end of treatment summaries are not standard practice in all hospitals. But more hospitals are doing them. They may happen in the ways we describe, or more informally. You will always have the chance to talk to someone from your cancer team before your treatment ends.
Your Recovery Package may also include a Cancer Care Review (below) with your GP, and information about any health and well-being events. It is aimed at improving your quality of life during and after treatment.
Your Cancer Care Review
You may see your GP or practice nurse about 6 months after you have been diagnosed with cancer. This is sometimes called a Cancer Care Review.
Your primary care team will check whether you have any concerns or need any more information or support.
They will talk to you about the cancer and the treatment you have had. If you have a personalised care plan or treatment summary, take these with you. Your GP may already have been sent a treatment summary from your cancer team.
Your GP or practice nurse can help you understand which symptoms to look out for. They can also advise when you might need to contact your cancer team.
Your cancer care review is a chance to talk about:
- how you are feeling
- any changes in your concerns
- any new worries or concerns that you have.
Your GP can give you information and tell you what support is available in your area.
Even if your GP does not routinely do cancer care reviews, they can still give you support and advice.
Your cancer team can give you advice on what you can do after treatment finishes. For example, they may:
- suggest exercises to improve your movement
- tell you what symptoms to look out for
- explain how any treatment side effects or symptoms can be managed
- give you ideas to help you be more active and to improve your general health.
If you are taking any ongoing cancer drugs, for example, hormonal therapy, it is important to take them exactly as your cancer team explains. Do not stop taking them without getting medical advice from your cancer doctor.
Knowing more about your condition and recovery 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.
Visiting your GP after treatment
You could also see your GP to let them know you have finished treatment and talk about any concerns you may have.
Your GP is responsible for your general health and can give you emotional support. They can also give you advice on:
The GP practice may also be able to support people close to you.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our after treatment information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
European Society for Medical Oncology: Supporting self-management of patients and family members. 2019.
Macmillan Cancer Support. Providing personalised care for people living with cancer: a guide for professionals providing holistic needs assessments, care and support planning. 2019.
Maher, J et al. Implementation of nationwide cancer survivorship plans: Experience from the UK. Journal of Cancer Policy. 2018. Vol 15, pp 76-81.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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