Follow-up care after treatment
After your main treatment ends, you usually still see your cancer team for regular check-ups. This is called follow-up care. How often you see them depends on different things, including:
- the type and stage of the cancer
- the treatment you have had
- your needs and wishes
- the arrangements at the hospital you go to.
You may feel worried before an appointment. Going back to hospital can be a difficult reminder of what you have been through. But it can also be a positive reminder that you are getting back to everyday life. People are often reassured after their visit.
There are different types of follow-up care. You usually have follow-up care at the hospital. This is usually with someone from your cancer team. These appointments may happen every few months in the first year after your treatment.
You may be asked to have a blood test or scan before an appointment. This helps make sure your results are available for the appointment. If you are not sure if this is needed, ask your cancer nurse or GP.
You will have fewer check-ups after the first year. You may not need to go to the hospital in the future.
You may have your follow-up care over the phone with a specialist nurse, instead of at a clinic. You may also have some follow-up care with your GP.
Your cancer team will discuss your follow-up care with you. You can decide together what is best for you.
The aim of this cancer follow-up appointment is to make sure everything is going well for you. It is also a chance for you to talk about any concerns you may have. The appointment helps your cancer doctor or nurse notice any possible problems early. They may examine you and do some simple tests, such as taking a blood sample. They will usually ask questions about your recovery and any side effects or symptoms you have.
It is very important to go to your appointments. If you cannot go because you are not feeling well, tell the clinic. They can arrange another appointment for you.
Your cancer team can refer you to other services if you need specialist help. For example, they may refer you to a psychologist or counsellor for emotional help, or a physiotherapist for advice about exercising.
Tips for getting the most from your appointment
- Write down any questions before your appointment. You can also write down the answers to help you remember them.
- Take someone with you. They can support you and can help you remember what was said.
- Always tell your cancer doctor or nurse about any ongoing or new symptoms, or other health worries.
- Tell them how you are coping with your feelings. They can give you advice or direct you to the right place for support.
- Tell them if you are taking any prescribed or non-prescribed medicines. This includes vitamins, minerals, or herbal or complementary medicines. Sometimes these can affect other drugs, including some cancer treatments.
- Be honest with your cancer team. This helps them to give you the best support.
Telephone clinics are a common and effective type of follow-up care. They are usually run by specialist cancer nurses. They can help you avoid long journeys to hospital and waits in hospital clinics. Having fewer hospital visits may also help you feel less anxious.
You may have regular telephone appointments with your cancer nurse. During these appointments, they may ask you some questions. Or you may be asked to contact your nurse if you need support or are worried about anything. If your nurse thinks anything needs to be checked, they will arrange this. You will still have any regular tests or scans you may need.
This type of follow-up care is sometimes called supported self-management. Your nurse will help you manage your health. They will provide information on:
Self-management allows you to be more in control of your care. But you can always contact your nurse or cancer team for help if you need it.
If you are offered this type of follow-up care, always make sure you contact your nurse if you are worried about anything. If you do not get in touch, they will assume that you are fine.
Your GP and practise nurse can offer support during and after treatment. If you have not seen them during treatment, it is a good idea to make an appointment when it finishes. Your cancer team will send them a report (treatment summary) about your treatment. You should always tell your GP about any problems you need help with.
Some GPs may have an agreement with the hospital to share your follow-up care. They may also prescribe some of the drugs you need.
Your GP is responsible for your general health. They can also give you emotional support and advice on:
- maintaining a healthy lifestyle
- benefits and financial support.
Your GP practice may also be able to support people close to you.
Remember to keep going to any regular check-ups you have at your GP practice. These may include blood pressure checks or cervical screening. It is important to care for your general health as you begin to recover.
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Support from Macmillan
Macmillan is also here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can do the following:
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.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.