Follow-Up Care After Cancer Treatment

December 16, 2013
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In this podcast, we talk about follow-up care after cancer treatment.  


You’re listening to a podcast from Cancer.Net.This cancer information website is produced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, known as ASCO, the world’s leading professional organization for doctors that care for people with cancer.

Today we’ll talk about follow-up care after cancer treatment. 

After cancer treatment ends, you may have feelings ranging from relief, to anxiety and fear. Often, the biggest question is: what do I do next?

At this point, it’s important for you to begin receiving follow-up care to watch for and manage a possible return of the cancer, as well as any long-term effects of treatment. The first step in your follow-up care is to receive a summary of your treatment and a survivorship care plan from your health oncology care provider.

First, let’s explain what a treatment summary plan is.

Some cancer survivors choose to continue follow-up care with their oncologist, while others return to their primary care or family doctor. If you’re returning to your primary care doctor, ask your oncologist for a treatment summary plan. This is a detailed summary of all previous cancer treatments and the risk for developing different long-term side effects. This information will provide your primary doctor with the information needed to best plan your follow-up care in the future.

The treatment summary should include four types of information:

Number one: The date you were diagnosed and the type of cancer, including tissue, cell type, stage, and the grade, if these are known.

Two. The dates of treatment and a list of specific treatments you received, including the type of treatment or drug name, the dose of the drug or the radiation, and the number of treatment cycles.

Number three. The results of any diagnostic tests and information about health conditions or issues you’ve experienced that is related to the cancer or its treatment, such side effects.

And number four. The risks for developing long-term side effects of the cancer treatment.

In addition to this treatment summary, your doctor can provide a survivorship care plan. This is a document that describes what tests you should have and how often you should have them. For instance, if you had radiation therapy in the head or neck area, your doctor may recommend a yearly test to monitor your thyroid gland. Or, if you’ve received specific chemotherapy, you may need regular EKGs to check your heart function. The tests may also include scans or bloodwork that help watch for other types of cancer.

It is useful to keep your own copy of both the treatment summary and survivorship care plan in your records, in case you need to share the information with another health care provider in the future.

Finally, think about what questions you may want to talk with your doctor about concerning your follow-up care. You may want to discuss the how often you will need follow-up visits and for how long, if there are certain tests needed during the appointments, if you need to take any medications or follow a special diet, and what physical signs or symptoms you should look for and talk to your doctor about now that treatment has ended.

It’s important for people who have completed cancer treatment to start receiving follow-up care to continue to manage their health. A good way to prepare for follow-up care is to talk with your doctor about getting a summary of your treatment and a survivorship care plan. Template forms can be found free on Cancer.Net, and your doctor’s office can work with you to get them completed. By doing this, you will continue to best manage your medical care as a post-treatment cancer survivor.  

For more information on follow-up care after cancer treatment, talk with your doctor or visit Cancer.Net is supported by the Conquer Cancer Foundation, which is working to create a world free from the fear of cancer by funding breakthrough research, sharing knowledge with physicians and patients worldwide, and supporting initiatives to ensure that all people have access to high-quality cancer care. Thank you for listening to this Cancer.Net podcast.