It is important as a cancer survivor to be aware of your health following treatment and diligent about follow-up care.
Your healthcare team will help you manage long-term side effects of cancer and watch for any changes such as the cancer spreading or coming back. Some things to remember about follow-up care include:
- Always go to your follow-up appointments. You will probably have follow-up exams every three to six months following treatment depending on the stage of your cancer. After some time goes by without a recurrence, your healthcare team will probably recommend checkups only once or twice a year.
- Follow your recommended screening schedule. Your screening schedule will depend on the type and stage of your cancer and other aspects of your medical history. Typically, a few months after treatment, your doctor will order an imaging scan such as a CT scan, PET scan, or MRI to set a new baseline. Your doctor will use this image to compare with future scans to check for recurrence. At most appointments with your oncologist you will have a lab visit first to do blood tests. Your oncologist uses these blood tests to check for tumor markers, protein levels, blood cell counts, and general health.
- If you change your primary care physician, make sure your new doctor has all your medical records and history.
- Tell your doctor about any side effects. Some side effects occur after treatment ends. Let your healthcare team know of any and all changes so they can help you manage them effectively.
- Keep your health insurance if at all possible. Follow-up care, especially imaging, can be very expensive if you do not have health insurance.
If you are concerned about your follow-up care once you are in remission, speak with your nurse navigator or survivorship navigator. Your team of healthcare professionals is always there to help you.