Dr. Lidia Schapira discusses what to expect in the time period after your cancer treatment is complete and your transition to survivorship.
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Finishing Treatment: What Comes Next?
After Treatment is Complete
Lidia Schapira, MD; Member, American Society of Clinical Oncology: Once patients finish their active treatment, they often have many worries. They're worried about their cancer possibly returning. They're worried about resuming their prior health, their work. It's often the case that things just don't snap back to normal, so that patients have to deal with the recovery from treatments. They have to deal with putting their life back in order and resuming perhaps a different rhythm, not exactly the one they had before they were diagnosed. After cancer treatments are over, different people have different needs. For some, it's really important to get back into physical shape, and they start an active training program to pay attention to nutrition, to exercise. For others, it's very important to catch up with time lost at work or with career issues that call. And for many, it's really a matter of trying to find harmony again and to balance family life, and work life, and personal goals. All of these things, I think, take a lot of time, and often what happens is it may take not just weeks or a small number of months, but many months, for somebody to be able to really feel confident and feel well.
Coping with Your Concerns
I think what really helps patients is, number one, to be informed about the type of cancer they had, the type of treatment they received, to have a good summary plan of what actually happened to them, and a good care plan so they know, going forward, who's going to be responsible for checking them. How often they need to be seen, who to call if they have a concern, and how often they need to have tests, when and where. So it's important first of all, to get informed, to get organized, and then really to be kind to oneself, I think, and face the fears and the anxieties, and even to look very actively for sources of support. Doctors and nurses can play an important role. It depends a bit on the relationships that a patient had with cancer professionals, and perhaps also the relationship a patient has with his or her primary care physician and nurse practitioner. So it's important for every person to find a team of experts, to maintain some of the contact they had with those they saw, perhaps, on a daily basis, if they were getting radiation on a weekly basis, if they were getting chemotherapy.
Where to Get More Information
Having access to good information, and I certainly am prone to cancer.net, ASCO's website for the public, can help to provide information, reading good books, talking to doctors and nurses who've been part of the care team, and asking for a very personalized survivor care plan, maybe helpful. All of these things may help different people at different times of the survivorship experience. There's no one simple solution that meets everybody's needs. So it's important for every person to know what they're afraid of, what they need to know, and how to link up with others to get the support they need going forward.
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