You will usually have the chance to talk to someone from your cancer team before your treatment ends. 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 you about any concerns or specific needs you have, and help you make a plan for your recovery. This may be called a Recovery Package. This discussion will usually be with your specialist doctor or nurse, or another health professional.
Many people find that they have mixed emotions at this time, when they expected to be able to put the cancer and its treatment behind them. It is important to accept that it will take time to recover.
We have more information about beginning your recovery.
Ask who your main contact will be when you finish treatment. This person is sometimes called your key worker. They may be your clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or another member of your cancer team.
You can contact them if you have any concerns about the cancer or treatment. Store their contact details in your mobile phone or somewhere you can find them easily.
Questions to ask your key worker
Knowing what to expect can help you adjust to life after treatment. Some things you may want to ask include:
- how often you will have follow-up reviews or check-ups and how long for (for example, 1 to 2 years or longer)
- what regular blood tests, scans or tests you may need and how often will they be done
- whether there are any signs or symptoms you should look out for and let your cancer team know about
- how to contact your team quickly (directly or through your GP) if you are worried.
You may also want information and advice about:
- managing any side effects or symptoms you have
- any late effects (side effects that can happen months or years later) of the treatments you have had, and anything you can do to reduce the risk of these
- anything you can do that may reduce the risk of the cancer coming back, or to help you recover
- if there are any health and well-being clinics or events, physical activity or survivorship programmes you can attend.
You may hear some health professionals talk about the Recovery Package. This is a term that combines all the options below:
Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA)
In some hospitals, the discussion about your needs is called a Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA). You answer a set of questions about all areas of your life, to see whether you have any concerns. You then have a discussion with a member of your healthcare team, to talk about the issues you have and think of possible solutions.
You may have a care plan created based on your Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA). A care plan explains how you will be supported now and in the future, and other services that may be useful. You should be given a copy that you can share with other members of your healthcare team. You can update your care plan whenever you need to.
Some hospitals create a document called a treatment summary. It usually includes:
- the treatment you have had
- what to expect after treatment
- any follow-up care or tests you need
- contact details of your cancer team.
You will be given a copy to keep and the hospital should send another copy to your GP.
Holistic Needs Assessments, care plans and treatment summaries are not standard practice in all hospitals. But more hospitals are doing them.
It may happen in the ways we have described above, or it could be done in a more informal way.
If you are not offered these types of support but feel any of them would be useful, you could ask your healthcare team if they can arrange them.
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.
You may see your GP or practice nurse about six months after you have been diagnosed with cancer. This is sometimes called a Cancer Care Review.
They will talk to you about the cancer and the treatment you have had. They can help you understand which symptoms to look out for and when you might need to contact your cancer team for advice.
It is a chance to talk about how you are feeling, if your concerns have changed and any new worries that have. Your GP can tell you about the kind of support that is available in your area.
If you have a care plan or treatment summary, take these with you when you see your GP.
Your cancer team may give you advice on what you can do to help yourself recover after treatment finishes. For example, they may suggest doing certain exercises to improve movement, or being more physically active. They may also tell you what symptoms to look out for.
If you are taking any medicines, for example hormonal therapy, it is important to take it exactly as your cancer team explains.
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.
Macmillan offers courses and workshops to support you. There are a range of online courses, including HOPE (Help to Overcome Problems Effectively). This is a free, short online course that looks at ways to manage the impact of living with and beyond cancer.
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.