What happens after treatment?

Now that your treatment has ended you can focus on your recovery. Cancer can be life changing so getting back to normal may take some time. You may have days when you feel less positive or are still coping with treatment side effects. So try not to expect too much straight away.

To begin with, you will usually have regular follow-up appointments to check your progress and to discuss any concerns you may have. If you have any problems in between appointments always get in touch. Advice and support will be available even after treatment ends.

You may find you gradually get back to the routines you had before cancer treatment. But, some people have ongoing side effects after cancer treatment and may have to adjust to a new routine.

You may decide to make some positive lifestyle changes after finishing treatment. This may include eating healthily, being more physically active, stopping smoking or taking up a complementary therapy to reduce stress.

Follow-up

After your chemotherapy has finished, you will have regular check-ups and possibly scans or x-rays. This will depend on the type of cancer and the treatments you have had.

Many people find they get very anxious before their appointments. This is natural. It may help to get support from family, friends or from a relevant organisation during this time.

Follow-up appointments are a good opportunity to discuss any problems or worries you have. It may help to make a list of questions beforehand so you do not forget anything important.

If you have any problems, or notice any new symptoms in between your appointments, let your GP, specialist nurse or cancer doctor know as soon as possible. Do not wait until your next scheduled appointment – you can ask for an earlier one.

You may have your follow-up appointments at a nurse-led clinic and only see your cancer specialist if something needs to be checked further. Instead of routine appointments, some people are asked to contact their nurse or cancer specialist if there is anything they are worried about.


Beginning to recover

Coming to the end of your chemotherapy treatment can be a time of mixed emotions. You will probably feel relieved, but may feel anxious or uncertain about the future. Many people find that they feel very emotional at this time, when they had expected to be able to put the cancer and the treatment behind them.

It can take time to rebuild your confidence and to come to terms with what you have been through. It may also take time to recover from treatment. You may feel tired for a while and you might have emotional or physical changes to deal with. It is important to give yourself time to adjust.

You can ask your healthcare team about support or search for organisations or local support groups that may be able to help you. We have more information about coping with your feelings.


How you can help yourself

When treatment is over, you may want to think about making changes to your lifestyle and find out more about healthy living.

Perhaps you already followed a healthy lifestyle before your treatment, but you may now want to focus more on making the most of your health. There are things you can do to help your body recover. These can also help improve your sense of well-being and lower your risk of getting other illnesses and other cancers.

What you can do

There are some things you can do that will help improve your health:

  • Regular physical activity is good for your heart and lungs, and it keeps your bones healthy. We have more information about physical activity and cancer, which has tips on how to be more active. We also have information about heart health and cancer treatment, which has helpful tips on looking after your heart and how late effects can be monitored and managed.
  • Keeping to a healthy weight and eating healthily is good for your heart and bones.
  • If you smoke, giving up is the best decision you can make for your health. Smoking is a major risk for heart and lung problems and also affects your bone health.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies can help improve people’s quality of life and well-being. They can also sometimes help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Many people find complementary therapies can help them feel stronger and more able to deal with chemotherapy. Many of these therapies can be used safely alongside conventional treatments and medicines, but it is important to check the particular therapy with your doctor or nurse first.

You may want to try complementary therapies to help you feel less anxious, such as meditation or visualisation. Other therapies may also help, such as gentle massage. Some hospitals offer complementary therapies alongside conventional care. These may include massage, relaxation and aromatherapy.

We have more information about complementary therapies, with information on how to contact registered practitioners.


How other people can help

There may be times when you want to be alone with your thoughts. At other times, sharing your feelings can be a relief.

Support groups

Support groups can put you in touch with other people having similar treatment. Talking with other people can be a good way of discussing feelings, and you can also pick up some useful coping tips.

We also have more information about talking about your cancer.

Family and friends

Family and friends often want to help you. But they may find it hard to understand exactly what you are going through. For example, you might feel your family and friends should be helping, but they may wait for you to make the first move. This is often because they are worried they may say the wrong thing, or they think you want to cope alone. They may also be feeling quite emotional themselves.

Good communication is really important. Try to be open and honest about how your treatment is going and how you feel about it. This will help your family and friends understand what is happening. It will also give them the chance to show their love and support.

We have information for family members and friends of people with cancer. It looks at the difficulties people may have when talking about cancer.

People are afraid to talk about cancer, but that’s the worst thing. I’d rather have it out in the open, because that’s the only way people will become more comfortable.

Kate

Back to Chemotherapy explained

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be given alone or with other treatments.

How do chemotherapy drugs work?

Chemotherapy drugs work by stopping cancer cells reproducing. The drugs can also affect healthy cells, causing side effects.

When is chemotherapy used?

Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells in the body. Your doctor will explain if chemotherapy is advised for you.