One important part of your life as a cancer survivor is follow-up care. Here’s a guide you should consider following once your cancer treatment ends to ensure that you receive the care you need:
Develop a schedule for follow-up care
When you go for your first clinic visit following your cancer treatment, ask your doctor to design a schedule of follow-up care appointments for you. Your schedule will depend on the type of cancer you had, the treatments you received, and any side effects you experienced. Be aware that your health insurance plan may restrict the number or your follow-up care visits.
Expectations for follow-up care
During follow-up appointments, your doctor will usually review your medical history, evaluate your current symptoms, and conduct a complete examination. Depending on the type of cancer and treatment you’ve had, your doctor may also do other tests including blood tests or imaging studies, such as X-rays and scans. In some instances, your doctor may order physical or occupational therapy to help enhance your recovery.
Recommended screenings following treatment
- Breast cancer: Monthly breast self exams; Annual mammogram; Physical exam every six months for the first five years and annually after that
- Colon cancer: Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) may be tested every three months for the first two years, then every six months for the next three years
- Melanoma: Complete skin exam annually, more often if cancer was more advanced
- Ovarian cancer: Pelvic exam every two to four months for the first two years, then every six months for the following three years which may include a blood test for cancer antigen (CA) 125
- Prostate cancer: Annual digital rectal exam; Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test every six months for the first five years, followed by annual PSA testing
What you should be looking for.
After your treatment you might be worried that any small change in your body could be a sign of cancer recurrence. Talk to your doctor about what signs to watch for. Don’t be afraid to report any unusual or persistent symptoms. During your follow-up appointment, tell you doctor about:
- Any signs or symptoms you fear may be a sign of cancer recurrence.
- Any side effects that make it difficult for you to go about your day, such as fatigue and pain.
- Any feelings you have, such as depression or anxiety, that make it difficult for you to go about your day.
- Any changes in your family medical history.
- Any other health problems you are experiencing.
Keep copies of your medical records.
Your records have relevant information about your cancer and your treatment. During follow-up appointments, your doctor—or any doctors you meet with in the future—will want to review your medical records. Your records show which treatments you received and what treatments could be considered in the future should your cancer ever return.