Prostate Cancer: Follow-Up Care

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about your medical care after cancer treatment is completed and why this follow-up care is important. Use the menu to see other pages.

Care for people diagnosed with prostate cancer does not end when active treatment has finished. Your health care team will continue to check that the cancer has not come back, manage any side effects, and monitor your overall health. This is called follow-up care.

Your follow-up care may include regular physical examinations, medical tests, or both. Doctors want to keep track of your recovery in the months and years ahead. Different people have different risks, so it is important to talk with your doctor about how your risk affects your schedule of follow-up care.

Cancer rehabilitation may be recommended, and this could mean any of a wide range of services, such as physical therapy, career counseling, pain management, nutritional planning, and/or emotional counseling. The goal of rehabilitation is to help people regain control over many aspects of their lives and remain as independent and productive as possible. Learn more about cancer rehabilitation.

Learn more about the importance of follow-up care.

Watching for recurrence

One goal of follow-up care is to check for a recurrence, which means that the cancer has come back. Cancer recurs because small areas of cancer cells may remain undetected in the body. Over time, these cells may increase in number until they show up on test results or cause signs or symptoms. During follow-up care, a doctor familiar with your medical history can give you personalized information about your risk of recurrence. Your doctor will ask specific questions about your health. Some people may have blood tests or imaging tests done as part of regular follow-up care, but testing recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer first diagnosed and the types of treatment given.

The anticipation before having a follow-up test or waiting for test results can add stress to you or a family member. This is sometimes called “scan-xiety.” Learn more about how to cope with this type of stress.

Managing long-term and late side effects

Most people expect to experience side effects when receiving treatment. However, it is often surprising to survivors that some side effects may linger beyond the treatment period. These are called long-term side effects. Other side effects called late effects may develop months or even years afterwards. Long-term and late effects can include both physical and emotional changes.

Talk with your doctor about your risk of developing late effects based on the stage of cancer, your individual treatment plan, and your overall health. If you had a treatment known to cause specific late effects, you may have certain physical examinations, scans, or blood tests to help find and manage them.

Some common late effects of prostate cancer include:

  • Anemia, particularly for patients who have received or are receiving hormone therapy

  • Bowel problems, such as bleeding and needing to go to the bathroom urgently and/or frequently

  • Urinary problems, such as difficulty emptying the bladder or difficulty controlling the bladder, called incontinence

  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, particularly for patients who have received or are receiving hormone therapy

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Bone problems, particularly for those who have received or are receiving hormonal therapy

  • Hot flashes, particularly for those who have received or are receiving hormonal therapy

  • Issues with sexual health, intimacy, and body image

Learn more about self-image and cancer, fertility and cancer treatment, sexual health, and talking with your spouse or partner.

General health recommendations

People recovering from prostate cancer are encouraged to follow established guidelines for good health, such as reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, eating a balanced diet, and following cancer screening recommendations. Here are general recommendations for those recovering from prostate cancer:

  • Focus on eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat fewer high-calorie foods and beverages and less saturated fat.

  • Get at least 600 IU of vitamin D each day and no more than 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day from foods.

  • If you have problems that affect how well your body absorbs nutrients from foods, consider talking with a registered dietitian (RD).

  • Be physically active for at least 150 minutes each week.

  • Limit alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks per day.

  • Quit smoking or using other types of tobacco.

  • Follow recommendations for general cancer screening. Those who received radiation therapy for prostate cancer may have a higher risk of bladder and colorectal cancers and need more intensive screening.

Talk with your doctor or other member of your health care team to help you develop an exercise plan, eating plan, and cancer screening schedule that is best for you. In addition, if you smoke or use tobacco, talk with your health care team about resources to help you quit.

Keeping personal health records

You and your doctor should work together to develop a personalized follow-up care plan. Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about your future physical or emotional health. ASCO offers forms to help keep track of the cancer treatment you received and develop a survivorship care plan when treatment is completed.

This is also a good time to talk with your doctor about who will lead your follow-up care. Some survivors continue to see their oncologist, while others transition back to the care of their family doctor or another health care professional. This decision depends on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, side effects, health insurance rules, and your personal preferences.

If a doctor who was not directly involved in your cancer care will lead your follow-up care, be sure to share your cancer treatment summary and survivorship care plan forms with them and with all future health care providers. Details about your cancer treatment are very valuable to the health care professionals who will care for you throughout your lifetime.

The next section in this guide is Survivorship. It describes how to cope with challenges in everyday life after a cancer diagnosis. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.