Survivorship: What Happens After Active Treatment Ends

Last Updated: July 30, 2018

Completing cancer treatment may leave you with many questions about what the future may look like.

Patient advocate and cancer survivor Terry Kungel and medical oncologist Dr. Lidia Schapira give advice to people for next steps once their cancer treatment ends.

More Information

Survivorship Resources

Long Term Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

ASCO Answers: Guide to Survivorship (PDF; 44 pages)

ASCO Answers: Sobrevivencia al Cáncer (PDF; 47 pages)

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Cancer.Net: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

Survivorship: What Happens After Active Treatment Ends

Terry Kungel, Patient Advocate; Member, American Society of Clinical Oncology: When you finish the primary treatment, you’ve gone through an enormous amount of effort to just get to the point where you make the treatment, but then after the surgery is over, after the radiation is over, you get into this zone where it’s very quiet, and you actually, even though it’s over, I would say, in my case, you’re a little bit more anxious, and you’re a little bit unsettled, because you’re now starting to look at, “okay, what’s the rest of the future going to look like?”

And you know, one of the big questions is, well did what we just do was that successful, am I going to dealing with a recurrence, and that brings out a lot of, you know, concern, stress, anxiety.

Lidia Schapira, MD, Medical Oncologist; Member, American Society of Clinical Oncology:  So, the takeaway message is really that the patient needs to know and the patient needs to share the information with their primary care clinician.  And I think it’s very important to spend the time at the end of cancer treatment with the cancer clinician, maybe a nurse practitioner, maybe the oncologist, somebody on the team, to go over the details of the treatment that was given.  Sometimes when somebody’s in the middle of receiving cancer treatment it’s not the best time for them to ask these tough questions.  But at the end, it’s important to really have almost an exit interview and in some centers, they actually offer that to patients, a transition visit, a bridge visit, some time where they can really go over the details of the cancer treatment received, ask questions, and then be very clear with a new primary care clinician or going back to a primary care clinician, to go over that material as well. 

I think this is a great time to turn to support groups or to find peer support in some way.  What I often hear from patients is that the greatest advice they heard, is from others who had faced similar situations.  And sometimes I also hear that giving advice to others is also helpful. 

Terry Kungel: Over time, you start to realize that you’ve got to get on with your life and continue to, to do the things that are important.  But one of the things that was important to me, was to realize that cancer isn’t a bump in the road, it’s actually a fork in the road, and that being able to help some other people go through that, and have less problems than I had, was something that was worth doing.

Dr. Schapira: I think of the end of cancer treatment and this transition time as a moment of opportunity; so, a time when people can really think about ways of enjoying life and staying healthy so that they can decrease the chance of having other health problems, and actually share this with other family members to give this a chance really to work for not only oneself, but for all the others who we love and share a life with.

Where to Get More Information

Dr. Schapira: If you’re looking for more information on cancer survivorship, I would recommend that you look at the resources on Cancer.Net, ASCO’s website for the public.  We have wonderful information in printed form, through videos and blogs, bringing in the voices of experts and patients.  And I think we’ve covered almost every aspect of survivorship.  So, I hope that you find it helpful.

[Closing and Credits]

Cancer.Net: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

ASCO's patient education programs are supported by Conquer Cancer® The ASCO Foundation   

Special Thanks:

  • Dr. Mary Wilkinson, Dr. Raymund Cuevo, and the staff at Medical Oncology & Hematology Associates of Northern Virginia

  • Medical Oncology Hematology Consultants, Newark Delaware

  • Carolyn B. Hendricks, MD, Center for Breast Health

  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

  • Rockefeller Research Laboratories, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

  • Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Sutter Health

  • The Adele R. Decof Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Miriam Hospital. The Miriam Hospital is a teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

  • University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center

  • University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

The opinions expressed in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of ASCO or the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

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