Follow-up and beginning to recover

Many people with anal cancer are cured. Recovery takes time but taking care of yourself may help you recover more quickly.

After your treatment has finished, you will have regular check-ups with your doctor. These usually continue for up to five years.

It can help to make positive changes to your lifestyle after cancer. Changes people make include:

  • stopping smoking
  • eating well
  • cutting down on alcohol
  • being active
  • reducing stress
  • being involved in their own healthcare.

Talk to your healthcare team before making any major changes to your lifestyle.

It is also important to know where to get help and support. This can be practical help, such as childcare, benefits and any physical care you need. Talk to your nurse, hospital social worker or benefits adviser about these. It can also include emotional support, to help you deal with difficult feelings. If you are worried about how you are feeling, talk to your cancer specialist or nurse.

Some people find that complementary therapies help them relax or cope during recovery. Support groups and online support can also help.


After treatment has finished, you’ll have regular check-ups with your doctor. They will examine you, ask how you are feeling and ask if you have any new symptoms.

You may also have other tests and scans to help your doctors check how well treatment has worked. Your doctor and nurse will explain more about this.

The follow-up appointments usually continue for up to five years. You have them less often as time goes on.

If you notice any new symptoms between your appointments, let your doctor know straight away. Your doctor will check what may be causing your symptoms and if they are linked to your treatment (late effects).

Many people find they get anxious before their follow-up appointments. This is natural. It may help to get support from family, friends or one of the organisations listed in our database during this time.

Making positive lifestyle changes

Many people with anal cancer are cured. But recovery takes time. Some people have side effects that slowly improve, while others may have ongoing problems.

Taking good care of yourself may help you recover more quickly.

Some people may decide to focus more on making positive changes to their lifestyle after cancer. A healthy lifestyle can include having a well-balanced diet, getting some exercise, reducing stress and being involved in your healthcare.

Some changes help reduce the risk of developing another cancer or other illnesses, such as heart disease and strokes. Stopping smoking is very important, as it also reduces the risk of the cancer coming back.

If you’re thinking about making any major changes to your lifestyle, it’s a good idea to talk it over with your doctor or specialist nurse first.

Stop smoking

Anal cancer is more likely to come back in people who smoke. So stopping smoking is important. It will also reduce the risk of getting other smoking-related cancers and diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.

Eat well

A well-balanced diet should include:

  • plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day)
  • foods high in fibre, such as beans and cereals
  • plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids.

But if treatment has affected your bowel, foods high in fibre may cause diarrhoea. If this happens, ask your nurse or a dietitian at the hospital. They can advise you on what the best diet is for you.

Try to reduce your intake of:

  • red meat and animal fats
  • salted, pickled and smoked foods.

Don’t drink too much alcohol

Stick to the NHS recommendations that men and women should:

  • not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol in a week
  • spread the alcohol units they drink in a week over three or more days
  • try to have several alcohol-free days every week.

Get physically active

You can start gently and build up the amount of physical activity you do. There are different types of exercise you can try, such as walking, hiking, cycling or swimming. We have more information about physical activity and cancer.

Reduce stress

There are different ways to reduce stress. Different people find different things helpful, but you could try the following:

  • Be more physically active.
  • Make time to do things you enjoy or things that make you laugh.
  • Try complementary therapies, such as meditation or yoga.
  • Talk to someone about your feelings or have counselling.
  • Try painting or drawing.
  • Write a journal or online blog.

Get involved in your healthcare

Being involved in your healthcare means:

  • taking any medicines as directed
  • going to your follow-up appointments
  • being aware of the symptoms of the cancer coming back, and looking out for them
  • letting your doctor or specialist nurse know what is important to you.

Getting help and support

Different people can help you during and after treatment.

Practical help

If you need help at home during or after treatment, a nurse or hospital social worker may be able to arrange this. If you have children, the social worker may arrange help with childcare. We have information about organising childcare that you may find helpful.

A social worker or benefits adviser can tell you about benefits you may be able to claim and possible help with other costs.

If you need help with a wound, district nurses can visit you at home to help with this.

Emotional help

It’s common to have different, and sometimes difficult, feelings after cancer treatment. But as you recover and get back to your everyday life, these usually get easier to deal with. Talking to family and friends often helps.

If you think you may be depressed or feel helpless or anxious a lot of the time, talk to your cancer specialist or nurse. They can refer you to a psychologist or counsellor who specialises in the emotional problems people with cancer often have. Our cancer support specialists can tell you more about counselling and let you know about services in your area.

Complementary therapies

Some people find that complementary therapies help them relax or cope with treatment or side effects. Some hospitals or support groups offer therapies such as relaxation or aromatherapy.

Support groups

Self-help or support groups offer a chance to talk to other people who understand what you’re going through. We have more information about support groups in the UK.

Online support

Many people get support on the internet. There are online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people affected by cancer. You can use these to share your experience and ask questions, get advice or just read about other people’s experiences.

Our Online Community is a social networking site where you can talk to people in our chat rooms, write blogs, make friends and join support groups.

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