Cancer, even best of therapy can have recurrences. There can be short and long term side effects of treatment. All these require follow up and regular check up. While navigating your new life after cancer, you may have questions regarding follow-up treatment.
Following FAQ’s will help you in that.
- What is follow-up cancer care, and why is it important?
- Follow-up cancer care involves regular medical checkups that include a review of a patient’s medical history and a physical exam. Follow-up care may include imaging procedure (methods of producing pictures of areas inside the body), blood work, and other lab tests.
- Follow-up care is important because it helps to identify changes in health. The purpose of follow-up care is to check for recurrence (the return of cancer in the primary site) or metastasis (the spread of cancer to another part of the body).
- Follow-up care visits are also important to help in the prevention or early detection of other types of cancer, address ongoing problems due to cancer or its treatment, and check for physical effects that may develop months to years after treatment ends. All cancer survivors should have follow-up care.
- I feel well. Why check up?
In some cases of recurrence you may not feel or see any signs. Therefore, it’s vitally important to attend follow-up visits with your doctor to monitor your health.
- What should patients tell their doctor during follow-up visits?
During each visit, patients should tell their doctor about:
- Any symptoms that they think may be a sign that their cancer has returned
- Any pain that bothers them
- Any physical problems that interfere with daily life or are bothersome, such as fatigue; difficulty with bladder, bowel, or sexual function; difficulty concentrating; memory changes; trouble sleeping; and weight gain or loss
- Any medicines, vitamins, or herbs they are taking and any other treatments they are using
- Any emotional problems they are experiencing, such as anxiety or depression
- Any changes in their family medical history, including any new cancers
- How is follow-up care schedules planned?
The frequency and nature of follow-up care is individualized based on the type of cancer, the type of treatment received, and the person’s overall health, including possible treatment-related problems. In general, people return to the doctor for follow-up appointments every 3 to 4 months during the first 2 to 3 years after treatment, and once or twice a year after that.
Your treating oncologist will fix up the schedule. The doctor may not need to perform any tests if the person appears to be in good physical condition and does not have any symptoms. It is important for the patient to talk with the doctor about any questions or concerns related to the follow-up care plan.
- How can I manage the fear and anxiety I feel before my follow-up test or appointment?
It’s normal to feel anxious before your follow-up tests and appointments, but there are ways to ease your mind.
Tips & Strategies
- Writing down questions about any issues you are currently or have been experiencing — whether it’s long-standing symptoms, emotional aspects, or practical issues such as questions about health insurance — and
- Asking a friend or family member to sit with you while you wait for your scans.
- In the days before your appointments, schedule activities that can help distract you from worrying, such as going for walks, talking with friends and family, or doing a calming exercise like yoga.
- Positive feedback by self : “ I am alright”.
- What should I bring with me for the follow up visit with the oncologist?
- In order to make it a thorough consultation, the oncologist you’re meeting with should have all your reports and other requested materials. This includes copies of scans, x-rays, MRIs, CTs, or other imaging tests that were done.
- Bring a list of any drugs you’re taking both prescription and over-the-counter. Be sure to include vitamins, minerals, and supplements.
- What actions can I take to improve my health after completing treatment for cancer?
There are several important things you can to do safeguard your health.
- Stop Smoking / Alcohol
Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve your general health. Quitting will help you breathe easier and feel better overall. It will also reduce your risk of developing certain cancers and will help prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Eat a Nutritious Diet
Eating a nutrient-rich diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you feel better and may lower your chances of developing other health problems.
· Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight
After cancer treatment, speak with your healthcare provider about whether you need to gain or lose weight.
· Exercise Regularly and management of weight.
Exercise after cancer treatment, regardless of how active you were prior to your diagnosis, can improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. Regular exercise may also reduce fatigue in some cancer survivors.
8. What do I need to know about my risk of cancer recurrence?
The risk that your cancer returns, or recurs, depends on the type of cancer you had, the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, the treatment you received, how much time has passed since your treatment, genetic factors, and environmental exposure. Your doctor can discuss your personal risk of recurrence with you.
The signs and symptoms of recurrence vary based on the type of cancer and how it has grown. In some cases, you may not feel or see any signs. Therefore, it’s vitally important to attend follow-up visits with your doctor or nurse to monitor your health.
9. What do I need to know about my risk of developing a new cancer?
Some cancer survivors have a higher risk of developing a second primary cancer as a result of their prior cancer treatment, environmental exposures, or genetic factors. Having appropriate cancer screening tests performed at the recommended intervals is an important step in the early detection of these cancers. Discuss what screening tests you should have with your doctor or nurse.